As an Illinois state Senator, Barack Obama received more than $100,000 from a company owned by an entrepreneur whom Obama helped to obtain a state grant.
Robert Blackwell Jr., a contributor to Obama’s campaigns, began paying Obama an $8,000-a-month retainer in early 2001 to provide legal advice to his technology firm, Electronic Knowledge Interchange.
At the time, Obama had recently completed his unsuccessful campaign for Congress, and had numerous debts and a law practice he had neglected for a year while campaigning, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Obama had been so strapped for cash that his credit card was initially rejected when he tried to rent a car at the 2000 Democratic convention, Obama disclosed in his book “The Audacity of Hope.”
The monthly payments from EKI supplemented Obama’s $58,000-a-year part-time state Senate salary, and eventually totaled $112,000.
“A few months after he received his final payment from EKI, Obama sent a request on state Senate letterhead urging Illinois officials to provide a $50,000 tourism promotion grant to another Blackwell company, Killerspin,” the Times story disclosed.
Killerspin runs table tennis tournaments around the country and sells its line of equipment and apparel, along with DVD recordings of the tournaments.
The day after Obama wrote his letter urging that Killerspin receive the grant, Blackwell contributed $1,000 to Obama’s Senate campaign.
Killerspin eventually received $320,000 in state grants between 2002 and 2004 to subsidize its competitions.
Blackwell is credited on Obama’s Web site with committing to raise $100,000 to $200,000 for Obama’s presidential campaign.
According to the Times, Obama did not specify on disclosure forms for 2001 and 2002 that EKI provided him with most of his private-sector compensation.
Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs told the Times that Obama did nothing wrong in acting on Blackwell’s behalf for a “worthy project” developed by a constituent.
David Axelrod, Obama’s chief political advisor, was more vehement in his statement: “Any implication that Sen. Obama would risk an ethical breach in order to secure a small grant for a ping pong tournament is nuts.”
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