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An illustrated guide: All the president’s Olympic cronies

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By Michelle Malkin  •  September 30, 2009 05:05 AM

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Photoshop: Paul Croteau

My syndicated column today — reprinted below with added links, pics, and info — gives you a rundown of the Obama cronies inside and outside the White House who stand to gain the most from the Chicago 2016 Olympic bid.

Chicagoans of all political stripes who oppose massive government funding of Mayor Richard Daley’s pet project have inundated my email-box. Reader Will P. sums it all up by noting that the games would “protect the current corrupt structure” and paper over Chicago/Illinois’s myriad woes, including: “Governor after Governor going to jail. Pay to play schemes. Crumbling and outdated infrastructure. Deteriorating public housing. Failing, dumbing-down schools. Hospital cutbacks. Sanctuary city. Never-ending gang wars (outbursts every Spring requiring massive police presence, police outmanned at the Taste of Chicago, innocents shot in the crossfire weekly, current beating video out now). Cemetery scandal (bodies removed and graves resold)…Acorn, Bill Ayers, Rezko, Blago, Wright. Univ. of Illinois “clout” scandal. Illegal preferential city hiring. City inspectors on the take (Operation Crooked Code). Voter fraud. The unemployment rate. Taxes through the roof. Mayor Daley attempting to extend city taxes to the suburbs. All this, and more…”

Daley’s approval ratings are at a record low as he scrambles to lease everything from parking meters to airports to raise cash. Residents are still reeling over the murder of teenager Derrion Albert. But FLOTUS Michelle Obama, on her merry way to Copenhagen, is singing a happy tune: “I mean, you know, most of these Games are taking place blocks away from my house. There’s good security by my house these days. And while Chicago is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, it is — people don’t live in fear. The downtown area is completely accessible…I know Mayor Daley, and he’s going to make sure that these Games go off without a hitch because that’s the kind of mayor he is. It’s not called the ‘City That Works’ for nothing.”

It “works” for the few at the expense of the many. That is the Chicago way.

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All the president’s Olympic cronies
by Michelle Malkin
Creators Syndicate
Copyright 2009

When government officials play the Olympic lottery, taxpayers lose. That has been the disastrous experience of host cities around the world (Forbes magazine even dubbed the post-Olympic financial burden the “Host City Curse”). So, why are President Obama and his White House entourage headed to Copenhagen, Denmark this week to push a fiscally doomed Chicago 2016 bid? Political payback.

Bringing the games to the Windy City is Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley’s “vision.” The entrenched Democratic power-broker – in office since 1989 – would like to cap off his graft-tainted career with a glorious, $4 billion bread and circuses production. The influential Daley machine backed Barack Obama for the presidential primary. Obama lavished praise on Daley’s stewardship of the city. Longtime Daley cronies helped pave Obama’s path to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Now, they’re returning the favor for their hometown boss.

Senior White House adviser and Obama consigliere Valerie Jarrett is a Daley loyalist who worked as his deputy chief of staff, deputy corporation counsel, and planning commissioner. She hired the future First Lady of the United States, then-Michelle Robinson, as a mayoral assistant. Jarrett went on to serve as president and CEO of The Habitat Company, a real estate firm with a massive stake in federally-funded Chicago public housing projects.

One of those public-private partnerships, the Grove Parc Plaza Apartments, was run into the ground under Jarrett’s watch. Federal inspectors graded the condition of the complex a bottom-of-the-barrel 11 on a 100-point scale. “They are rapidly displacing poor people, and these companies are profiting from this displacement,” Matt Ginsberg-Jaeckle of Southside Together Organizing for Power, a community group that seeks to help tenants stay in the same neighborhoods, told the Boston Globe last year. “The same exact people who ran these places into the ground,” the private companies paid to build and manage the city’s affordable housing, “now are profiting by redeveloping them.”

Coincidentally enough, Grove Parc — now targeted for demolition as a result of years of neglect by Obama’s developer friends—sits in the shadows of the proposed site of the city’s 2016 Olympics Stadium.

Jarrett served as vice chair of Chicago’s 2016 Summer Olympics bid committee before moving to the White House, where she has helmed a new “White House Office on Olympic, Paralympic and Youth Sport” with an undisclosed budget and staff. It’s not just taxpayers in cash-strapped Chicago who should be worried about this field of schemes. Crain’s Chicago Business reports that Jarrett and Chicago 2016 committee member Lori Healey met this month with federal officials at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development “to discuss financing options” for the estimated $1 billion Olympic Village.

The door is open and the administration is “willing to meet and listen” to any federal subsidy proposals, Jarrett said. Hey, what happened to Obama’s tough rules on interest-conflicted lobbying by his administration officials?

A majority of Chicagoans who live in pay-for-play-plagued Cook County oppose public funding for the Olympic party. The city has more than a half-billion-dollar deficit – and just received word that its Olympic insurance policy will cover only about $1.1 billion of the $3.8-billion operating budget drawn up by Daley. Cost overruns, fraud, and union-inflated contracts are inevitable. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs defended President Obama’s all-out campaign for Chicago’s 2016 Olympics bid by claiming America will see a “tangible economic benefit.”

But as is always the case with sports corporate welfare disguised as “economic development,” an elite few will benefit far more than others.

axTake senior White House adviser and Obama campaign guru David Axelrod. He’s been a Daley loyalist since 1989, when he signed up as a political consultant for the mayor’s first run. Axelrod’s public relations firm, Chicago-based AKPD Message and Media, has pitched in work for the Chicago 2016 committee. It is unknown how much AKPD has received for its services – or how much they’ll make in future income if the bid is successful. AKPD currently owes Axelrod $2 million.

ryan The head of the Chicago 2016 bid committee is Patrick Ryan, chairman of the Aon Corporation and a co-chair of Obama’s deep-pocketed presidential inaugural committee. (Under Ryan’s watch at Aon, the company settled a massive corruption probe with 3 states for $190 million. More here on Ryan/Aon/Daley dealings More on corruptocrat Chicago Republicans like Ryan and others here.)

ppAlso on both of those committees: Obama confidante Penny Pritzker, who in addition chairs the Olympic Village Subcommittee and is president of Pritzker Realty Group – a mega-developer in Illinois that could reap untold millions in project work if the Daley Machine/White House campaign succeeds.

nesb Former Pritzker executive and Obama campaign treasurer Martin Nesbitt is also on the bid committee – and serves as Mayor Daley’s chairman of the Chicago Housing Authority.

ZZ713DD653Another bid committee member, Michael Scott Jr., is “trying to develop a for-profit real estate project that would sit within feet of the cycling venue if Chicago wins the 2016 Summer Games,” according to the Chicago Tribune.

It takes a crony-filled White House to raise a Chicago Olympic village. Daley and Obama will get the glory. America will get stuck with the bill.

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