One of the speakers at the DNC on Monday night was Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, whose speaking slot raised a few eyebrows. Not only is he very young and in a low level state office, his family's business, Chicago-based Broadway Bank, has ties to organized crime.
The ties between Giannoulis and Obama may be even more troubling that those between Obama and the likes of Jeremiah Wright because there seems to be so little upside for Obama in this relationship. Perhaps the former community organizer who is also known to shoot some hoops felt some common bond with the self-described community banker and basketball player for Boston University. In fact, the Sun Times' Mike Sneed reported on January 18 2008 that Giannoulias "was last spotted trying to set up a Saturday morning basketball game in Las Vegas so Barack Obama could loosen up on primary day."
Whatever the attraction for Obama, the friendship certainly has paid off in a big way for Giannoulias. In 2004, Giannoulias was an early supporter of Obama. Obama repaid the support to his campaigns by having his Senate campaign use the Broadway Bank. In 2006, Obama give Giannoulias an early and avid endorsement that helped him become Illinois State Treasurer at the age of 30.
This was despite some well-publicized involvement with a fraudulent loan made by the bank to an 83 year old woman who had been brought in by two convicted felons. During the campaign, another story about a Broadway bank loan to a John D'Arco, a former state senator twice convicted of federal corruption charges and two convicted bookmakers also made headlines. One of the bookmakers, Michael Gioranago, is an alleged prostitution ring promoter, too.
It seems that convicted felon and former Obama friend Tony Rezko also has ties to Broadway Bank. Rezko is facing criminal charges in Nevada for nine bad checks totaling $450,000 payable to Las Vegas casinos for gambling debts written on his account at Broadway Bank.
Giannoulias is so tainted by reputed mob links that several top Illinois Dems, including the state's speaker of the House and party chairman, refused to endorse him even after he won the Democratic nomination with Obama's help.
Speaker Mike Madigan is perhaps the most amoral politician I have run into in 30 years of following state and local government. That the taint rising from Giannoulias and his family's bank gave Madigan pause speaks volumes about Obama's lack of political judgement.
Footnote: One way to raise a lot of cash that gets around all the federal reporting rules for cash transaction of $10,000 or more is to establish an account at a casino -- or better yet two or three casinos. You then go to the casino, draw chips on the account and pretend to play the tables. Instead of losing all the money, you cash most of the chips back a few at a time over the course of several days. The casino assumes you lost all the money and you fly back home with a carryon stuffed with $100 bills.