Thursday, September 25, 2008

Barry Obama's Secret Garden

Barry, Barry, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With South Side frills, and Bobcat tills,
And cut trees all in a row.
(Update: 9/27 am, below)
According to a story today in the Chicago Sun Times, the Attorney General of Illinois is now conducting a "show me the money" investigation of what happened to the proceeds of a $100,000 earmark grant that Barack Obama obtained back when he was a State Senator, the lion's share of which, ended up in the hands of the wife of a strong supporter of his, to grow a botanic garden on the South Side of Chicago.

The basic problem is, no garden and less money. According to the story:
The garden was never built. And now state records obtained by the Sun-Times show $65,000 of the grant money went to the wife of Kenny B. Smith, the Obama 2000 congressional campaign volunteer who heads the Chicago Better Housing Association, which was in charge of the project for the blighted South Side neighborhood.

Smith wrote another $20,000 in grant-related checks to K.D. Contractors, a construction company that his wife, Karen D. Smith, created five months after work on the garden was supposed to have begun, records show. K.D. is no longer in business.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan -- a Democrat who is supporting Obama's presidential bid -- is investigating "whether this charitable organization properly used its charitable assets, including the state funds it received," Cara Smith, Madigan's deputy chief of staff, said Wednesday.

In addition to the 2001 grant that Obama directed to the housing association as a "member initiative," the not-for-profit group got a separate $20,000 state grant in 2006.
Almost all of the money from the grant, and the $20,000 bonus, is missing or unaccounted for, with the exception of a payment for some work done by a contractor to clear the ground.
Obama vowed to "work tirelessly" to raise $1.1 million to help Smith's organization turn the City of Chicago-owned lot into an oasis of trees and paths. But Obama lost the congressional race, no more money was raised, and today the garden site is a mess of weeds, chunks of concrete and garbage. The only noticeable improvement is a gazebo.
The contractor hired to clear the ground, who the paper identified as a man named Rodolfo Marin, now lives in Texas. He says that he was paid, at most, around $3,000 to rent a Bobcat and plow down the area.
"What I was hired for was: Clean up the area and cut the trees -- that's all," Marin said. He said he rented a Bobcat -- a sort of small bulldozer -- for the project.

And how much did Smith pay him? "If he spent about $3,000 with me, that was too much."

The garden to nowhere.

Update: Looks like Michelle Malkin had a post up on this earlier in the day than I did, including calling it the "garden to nowhere." Her trackbacks show others have as well. I had not seen her piece before posting mine.

*My literary apologies, of course, to Frances Hodgson Burnett.

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