Alexi Giannoulias used his banking experience -- and his banking money -- to launch his political career. Now he has to answer for whatever that bank does.
The Senate candidate has been reminded of that ever since he declared his candidacy last year. The sins and the failures of Broadway Bank are also his sins and his failures, even though he left the bank in 2005.
Now, the Sun-Times is fitting Giannoulias with the jacket for a 2006 loan that Broadway Bank made to a group that included convicted felon Tony Rezko. Rezko is the most undesirable sidekick in Illinois politics since Al Capone, so any connection to a Senate candidate looks like news.
Rezko’s relationship with the bank developed through his friendship with the bank's founder, family patriarch Alexis Giannoulias, Alexi Giannoulias’ father, who died in June 2006.
Giannoulias’ brother Demetris Giannoulias is the only Broadway Bank official named in public records regarding the loan, which involved a large, vacant piece of property in the South Loop -- 62 acres at Roosevelt Road and Clark Street -- that Rezko had been trying to develop…Broadway Bank made the loan even though another Rezko company, Chicago Hudson LLC, had fallen behind on a $10.9 million loan it got from the bank four years earlier. That loan -- for a proposed high-rise condo building at 750 N. Hudson on the Near North Side that never got built -- ended up in Bankruptcy Court.
So every Giannoulias except Alexi was involved in this deal. Giannoulias’s campaign spokeswoman, Kathleen Strand, says the candidate “had no knowledge of it, and his name is not on any documents related to the loan. This guilt-by-association story is an unfortunate and failed attempt to link Alexi to Mr. Rezko.”
But that doesn’t mean Giannoulias never did business with Rezko. As the story notes, he was senior loan officer when Broadway Bank made other loans to Rezko, including that failed $10.9 million loan to Chicago Hudson LLC. As Giannoulias once explained to The Chicago Reader, Rezko was “creditworthy” when he approached the bank. So is Giannoulias guilty of associating with Rezko? Yes. Is he guilty of associating with Rezko on this particular loan? No. But today’s story brings up memories of his former dealings with the businessman.
Giannoulias’s campaign sent out an e-mail today charging Mark Kirk with guilt by association with Rezko. In 2000, when Kirk was first running for Congress, he received a $1,000 contribution from Rezko, whose Wilmette mansion was in Kirk’s district.
“If anyone in this race has a Rezko problem, it’s Mark Kirk,” Strand said. “He is the only candidate who has taken a contribution from Mr. Rezko, and has taken thousands more from his convicted associates.”
If that’s the case, Barack Obama has an even bigger Rezko problem than Mark Kirk, but you won’t hear the Giannoulias camp say that. Tony Rezko was an astute judge of political potential, and he gave money to -- and in Giannoulias's case, got money from -- almost all the comers in this state. The good news for Giannoulias is that guilt by association with Rezko is so common it's never stopped anyone from winning higher office.