The Illinois attorney general is probing a $100,000 grant then-state Sen. Barack Obama awarded to a group headed by a onetime campaign volunteer to learn if the money was misspent.
The 2001 grant was for a botanic garden planned for Chicago’s South Side. The garden was never built.
Now the Chicago Sun-Times has obtained records showing that $65,000 of the grant money went to the wife of Kenny B. Smith, a Obama 2000 congressional campaign volunteer who heads the Chicago Better Housing Association, the group that was in charge of the botanic garden project.
Smith also gave $20,000 in “grant-related checks” to K.D. Contractors, a construction firm that his wife Karen created five months after work on the garden was scheduled to begin, the Sun-Times reported.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, a Democrat, is investigating “whether this charitable organization properly used its charitable assets, including the state funds it received,” said Cara Smith, Madigan’s deputy chief of staff.
Obama had vowed to help raise $1.1 million to help Smith’s group develop the garden, on a city-owned plot near and under an elevated train line. But no more money was raised, and today the weed-choked site is filled with concrete chunks and garbage, the Sun-Times disclosed.
Smith has claimed the grant money was spent legitimately, mostly on underground site preparation.
Madigan’s office has reportedly notified Obama’s presidential campaign about the investigation, which was launched this week.
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