Chicago entrepreneur Robert Blackwell Jr.
an $8,000-a-month retainer to give legal advice to his
growing technology firm, Electronic Knowledge Interchange.It allowed Obama
to supplement his
$58,000 part-time state Senate salary for over a year with regular payments from Blackwell's firm that eventually totaled $112,000.
The day after Obama
letter urging the awarding of the state funds, Obama's U.S. Senate campaign received a $1,000 donation from Blackwell
...Killerspin's owner, Blackwell, was a political supporter and friend as well.
Both men lived on Chicago's
, a savvy and successful entrepreneur, was one of the first donors to Obama's early campaigns, including the state senator's failed bid for a congressional seat in 2000.In the presidential race he
is credited on Obama's
website with committing to raise $100,000 to $200,000 for Obama's campaign.
sought backing for his
table tennis tournament in 2002, other politicians, including U.S. Sen.
allies promised good attendance, hotel bookings and international attention.
said in a statement that "the 2002 and 2003 events were among the largest-ever table tennis events held on U.S. soil in terms of attendance."Blackwell
deployed high-wattage showmanship that put an international spotlight on his
tournaments and his
brand of table tennis equipment, DVDs and sportswear.Under a plan developed by Blackwell
, the 2003 and 2004 tournaments were filmed at Killerspin's
expense for occasional broadcast later by ESPN.The cost to Killerspin
for the broadcast, laced with promotions for the company as well as Illinois tourism, was in effect defrayed by the state aid.Blackwell
said the grants -- which paid only part of the cost his
company had to bear -- provided the state with "thousands of hours of domestic and international exposure via ESPN. . . . Additionally, hundreds of hotel rooms were occupied all three years that the state supported the event."
'A very dry period'
book "The Audacity of Hope," Obama tells how his
finances had deteriorated to such a point that his
credit card was initially rejected when he
tried to rent a car at the 2000 Democratic convention in Los Angeles.He
had originally planned to dedicate that summer "to catching up on work at the law practice that I'd left unattended during the campaign (a neglect that had left me more or less broke)."