‘The Fix Was In’: Obama Donor Gets Sweetheart Real Estate Deal in Chicago

by Bob Gough
BigGovernment.com
1/26/2010

With much-publicized ties between President Barack Obama, the SEIU labor union and the ACORN volunteer organization, it would be a safe assumption that someone with a business relationship with not just one, but both of those groups would have an inside track on doing business with an Obama associate.

But in the world of big money Democratic Chicago politics, there is a difference between white-collar clout and blue-collar clout.

Chicago real estate developer Thomas Bennett thought he had a deal in hand to purchase the old Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) building at 626 West Jackson, just blocks from Union Station. Bennett thought he was paying a fair price for the property as he had a written commitment from two tenants –SEIU and ACORN- to occupy office space in the building.

Bennett was dealing with Chicago Housing Authority Chairman Marty Nesbitt on the attempted purchased and put forth an offer of $9 million for the building.

“Occupancy in leasing or their purchasing a few floors that was the model but they were going to occupy,” Bennett said. “When you go in the market with a client, they know what their growth needs would be for a 10-year period. Absent that commitment, I’m not looking at that building. What made this a pragmatic deal was I had commitment from two credible users (SEIU and ACORN). Those don’t come down the road every day. It allowed me to put together a competitive bid. No way was someone going to compete with my bid.”

But Bennett didn’t put forth the winning bid. A company called Sterling Bay properties had the top bid. Actually, top bid is not the proper description. Sterling Bay won with a $7.7 million bid, $1.3 million less than Bennett’s $9 million offer.

“During my dealings, The CHA explained how important a quick, no-due-diligence close was to them,” Bennett said. “Yet they allowed the winning bidder to control the property for 5+ months before closing.”

You go with the highest bid with a party that has a good chance of closing the bid. As a life-long Chicagoan, this was disappointing. After the meeting, I put it in the rearview mirror and tried to move on.”

But later Bennett discovered Nesbitt also had another role: treasurer of the Obama Victory Fund.

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