Barack Obama's real estate ties.

The big story on some of the local TV news shows tonight is about Barack Obama's ties to Rita Rezko, the wife of Tony Rezko, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich's former chief fundraiser. Tony Rezko has been indicted in a massive scandal involving giving government jobs and contracts to Blagojevich's contributors. Apparently, the Rezkos live in a mansion in the suburbs north of Chicago, but on the same day that Obama bought a $1.6 million house on the south side of Chicago, Rezko's wife bought the vacant lot next door. Then Obama bought 10 feet of the Rezko lot, and Obama has now been paying for the mowing of all of the Rezko lot, though he says that he has been meaning to divide the costs.

Here is part of the Chicago Tribune article (registration required) that launched the story:

The same day last year that Obama and his wife, Michelle, closed on a $1.65 million home, Antoin "Tony" Rezko's wife, Rita, closed on a $625,000 vacant lot next door, the Chicago Tribune reported in Wednesday's editions. Both lots had once been part of the same estate, but were listed for sale separately by the owner. . . .

Obama said he had discussed the home with Rezko, but didn't know when Rezko became interested in the vacant lot.

In January, Obama paid Rezko $104,500 for part of the lot to balance the space between his house and the fence.

"I told them if you can spare another 5 or 10 feet, I'd be happy to purchase it from you," Obama said. "They came back and said they could sell us up to 10 feet."

A city ordinance required Rezko to fence the line between the properties, but the Obamas paid for an attorney and architects to inquire about the fence with the Commission on Chicago Landmarks, partly because Obama's wife once worked there and because they wanted to ensure it was done properly, Obama said. Rezko was to pay $14,000 for the fence, although that bill has not been paid, the fence company told the Tribune.

Obama said he took special care to ensure any financial arrangements with Rezko were ethical, because Rezko was widely reported to be under investigation by a federal grand jury. . . .

Rezko and his companies donated at least $19,500 to Obama's state Senate campaigns and federal fund; Obama has said he would divest the federal donation.

Obama said he didn't know how much he spent on the work that led to the fence permit for Rezko.

"My suspicion is that it would probably be a couple of thousand dollars. On the architectural side it might be more," Obama said.

Obama has the landscaper who mows his lawn also mows Rezko's 7,500-square-foot yard, Obama said.

"My intention was to have the landscaper figure out some pro-rata cost for that mowing and send that bill to Rezko. I just haven't had time to do it," Obama said.

To say that this is small potatoes by the standards of Illinois political scandals is an understatement. It is not clear to me that Obama has done anything that is clearly improper, though I confess that I have been voting for Obama since he was representing my district in the state legislature.