Obama ambassador, Jarrett share Chicago business interest

Obama aide, appointee share Chicago business interest
Envoy friends in high-rise places

Chuck Neubauer
The Washington Times

President Obama’s ambassador to the Netherlands, Fay Hartog Levin, and senior presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett, a shortlist candidate for White House chief of staff if Rahm Emanuel leaves to run for mayor of Chicago, have ownership interests in a multimillion-dollar, 46-story luxury apartment building in Chicago – a business relationship that predates the ambassador’s appointment last year.

Kingsbury Plaza, a 420-unit, blue glass building just north of the Chicago River, cost more than $100 million to build. It was developed between 2005 and 2007 by the Habitat Co., a real estate firm where Ms. Jarrett worked for 13 years and most recently served as president and chief executive officer.

Although it was well-known that Ms. Jarrett worked for the company and its founder, Daniel Levin, less well-known is that she had a major real estate investment in Kingsbury Plaza with him and his wife, who was named by Mr. Obama in July 2009 as ambassador to the Netherlands.

The Levins are major Democratic donors, according to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), giving more than $900,000 since 1989, nearly all of it to the Democratic Party. Each contributed about $25,000 to Mr. Obama’s political races, CRP records show.

“I was hoping for a fundamental shift in the way he hands out ambassadorships, but it hasn’t happened,” said Craig Holman, legislative representative for Public Citizen, a Washington, D.C.-based consumer advocacy group.

Mr. Holman said he found it “disturbing” that the Obama administration has continued handing out these “plum ambassador appointments to people who are friends or fundraisers or in the same social network.”

“I don’t know this ambassador,” he said. “She might be perfectly qualified. I just wish they would appoint ambassadors based on merit and not business connections and money.”

The article continues at The Washington Times.

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