First Lady Michelle Obama's latest overseas jaunt is getting all the headlines. But President Obama's money-grubbing junket to Chicago may cost taxpayers far more in the long run. With his Gaultier-clad wife sashaying around the Spanish seaside, the lonely fundraiser-in-chief returned to Illinois to take care of some birthday-week business. Job One: Filling the Senate campaign coffers of his corruption-tainted political protege Alexi Giannoulias.
Mission accomplished. Obama's Thursday afternoon campaign event for Giannoulias, the beleaguered state treasurer of Illinois, reportedly raked in $1 million. Lagging behind his GOP opponent, liberal Republican Rep. Mark Kirk, Giannoulias has coveted one-on-one, grip-and-grin time with Obama for months. In addition to the cash, photo-ops and video of the Obama fundraising event that Giannoulias will milk from now until Election Day, the White House has dispatched Vice President Joe Biden, White House senior adviser David Axelrod and White House campaign management guru David Plouffe to boost Giannoulias' bid. Plouffe proclaimed Democrats "all in" for Giannoulias, whom he described as "a great progressive champion."
Obama gave his own personal seal of ethical approval, telling deep-pocketed donors this week: "I appreciate his strong sense of advocacy for ordinary Americans. You can trust him -- you can count on him." Uh-huh. And I've got a bridge to Hope and Change to sell you.
What would Giannoulias know about "ordinary Americans"? Giannoulias, 34, befriended Obama during pickup basketball games with an elite group that also included Michelle Obama's brother, Craig; Chicago edu-crat Arne Duncan (now Education Secretary); and hedge fund manager John Rogers (the ex-husband of the Obamas' ex-White House social secretary, Desiree Rogers). He spread his wealth and influence around early and often to support Obama's fledgling political career. He pitched in $7,000 in 2003-2004 to Obama's Illinois State Senate bids. He hosted fundraisers for Obama's U.S. Senate campaign in 2004 and for his presidential campaign in 2007.