Lovely in Los Angeles

By Jennifer Parker

Feb 1, 2008 8:20am

The two remaining Democratic presidential candidates held a gracious, substantive debate last night — one that we fact-checked on Good Morning America this a.m. (Read more HERE.)

In the audience, as Variety reports, were Stevie Wonder, Steven Spielberg, Pierce Brosnan, Diane Keaton, Rob Reiner, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Garry Shandling.

Not to mention Jason Alexander, whose legendary character George Costanza has already made an appearance during this campaign season, with Mike Huckabee accusing Mitt Romney of having a Costanza-like standard for the truth.

Not in the audience: Tony Rezko.

A good look at Obama’s friendship with the jailbird comes today from Salon.com’s Edward McClelland   

"Obama’s dealings with his hinky friend have never led him afoul of the law, but they show that, despite his high-minded politics, he was no purer — or no savvier — than Illinois’ biggest hacks in his weakness for a generous contributor," McClelland writes. "He wouldn’t even say no when Rezko cooked up a deal to help the newly elected senator buy a gracious Georgian-revival home."

Hmmmm.

Also not in the audience: Canadian mining financier Frank Giustra. Nor was Kazakhstan President, Nursultan A. Nazarbayev.

But they were surely on some minds as well, an interesting New York Times story showed a win-win-win among the three men.

Clinton gave Nazarbayev "a propaganda coup, after Mr. Clinton expressed enthusiastic support for the Kazakh leader’s bid to head an international organization that monitors elections and supports democracy. Mr. Clinton’s public declaration undercut both American foreign policy and sharp criticism of Kazakhstan’s poor human rights record by, among others, Mr. Clinton’s wife, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.

"Within two days, corporate records show that Mr. Giustra also came up a winner when his company signed preliminary agreements giving it the right to buy into three uranium projects controlled by Kazakhstan’s state-owned uranium agency, Kazatomprom. The monster deal stunned the mining industry, turning an unknown shell company into one of the world’s largest uranium producers in a transaction ultimately worth tens of millions of dollars to Mr. Giustra, analysts said.

And then…"Just months after the Kazakh pact was finalized, Mr. Clinton’s charitable foundation received its own windfall: a $31.3 million donation from Mr. Giustra that had remained a secret until he acknowledged it last month. The gift, combined with Mr. Giustra’s more recent and public pledge to give the William J. Clinton Foundation an additional $100 million, secured Mr. Giustra a place in Mr. Clinton’s inner circle, an exclusive club of wealthy entrepreneurs in which friendship with the former president has its privileges."

What do you think of the Salon and NYT stories? What did you think of the debate?

- jpt

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