Friday, May 29, 2015

Former GOP Speaker Denny Hastert Was No Petty Criminal-- He Was A One-Man Major Crime Wave


John Laesch was one of the sharpest, most fearless and most dedicated congressional candidates Blue America ever got behind. John ran against powerful, unassailable Speaker of the House Denny Hastert in 2006 and again in 2008 (although Hastert was forced to resign from Congress as the campaign season started heating up). Noam Chomsky and Studs Terkel joined Blue America in the endorsement. Although Laesch won the primary against an Establishment Democrat (and with 66% of the vote!), Hastert won the general election 114,385 (60%) to 77.065 (40%), the DCCC giving Hastert a free pass and doing all they could to sabotage Laesch.

Leasch's campaign helped shine a powerful spotlight on the massive corruption and abuse of power that were the hallmarks of Hastert's time as Speaker. Hastert's corruption wasn't unknown in the Beltway while he held power-- nor was his sexual preference for young men-- but "mum" was the word... on both counts. But not any longer.

And it's not just using earmarks to get expensive federal highways built out to investment property in the middle of nowhere that became far more valuable after the roads were built. Hastert's office-- much like Boehner's is today-- became ground zero for GOP institutional crime. Now a wheelin'-dealin' lobbyist in DC, he was finally indicted, by a Federal grand jury, Thursday-- charged with violating banking laws in a bid to pay $3.5 million because of "past misconduct" against an unnamed individual from their hometown west of Chicago. He covered up-- or tried to-- withdrawals that totaled at least $950,000 from his bank accounts, violating several federal banking laws in the process.
The indictment did not spell out the exact nature of the "prior misconduct" by Hastert against the individual from his hometown, Yorkville, but noted that before entering politics in 1981, Hastert spent more than a decade as a teacher and wrestling coach at the local high school. This unnamed individual mentioned in the indictment has known Hastert for most of their life, the indictment states.

...Prosecutors said that in 2010, when the unnamed individual confronted Hastert about the allegations of misconduct, the former speaker agreed to pay out $3.5 million "to compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct against" this person.

Over the next five years Hastert withdrew about $1.7 million in cash from his various bank accounts, at one point in 2014 delivering $100,000 a month, the indictment alleges.

Beginning in 2013, the FBI and Internal Revenue Service began investigating "possible structuring of currency transactions to avoid the reporting requirements."
You can tell which one is Coach Hastert but... which one is "Individual A?"

Hastert told FBI investigators that the reason he withdrew $1.7 million in cash was because "he did not feel safe with the banking system," although he never shared those dire concerns with his constituents. A more reasonable assumption is that Hastert withdrew the large sums of money to pay blackmail to one of the underage boys he had been coaching-- and raping. Remember, even if a youngster "consents" to carnal relationships with an authority figure like Hastert, it is still statutory rape. But Hastert is only being charged with banking monkey business, not, at least not so far, with raping children. Nor, you might want to contemplate, was Mark Foley ever charged with anything.

So now everyone is guessing what exactly the "prior misconduct" was that Hastert was trying to cover up with $3.5 million in hush money. The only clues were that it happened in Yorkville where he was the high school wrestling coach and the purpose was to "compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct against Individual A." The indictment goes on to state that Hastert has known Individual A for pretty much his entire life, indicating that it was probably a younger person. There have long been rumors that Hastert had been molesting his wrestling students, rumors that were fueled once people observed his conduct when he got to DC. Hastert also moved rapidly to protect Mark Foley after he was discovered having sex with under-age male pages. Hastert's efforts on behalf of Foley kept Foley in office for several years after it was fairly well-known that he was raping boys in the congressional page program. Ultimately, the Foley debacle wrecked Hastert's career as well as Foley's, and led to massive losses for the GOP in the 2006 midterms. Today both Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh were calling Hastert a homo on their hate talk radio shows. And Wayne Madsen and Alex Jones revealed some pretty shocking details. Meanwhile, the Illinois House put plans to erect a statue of Hastert in the Illinois State Capitol on indefinite hold. Funding had just been approved 2 weeks ago. And yesterday Hastert was forced to resign from his job as a lobbyist for Dickstein Shapiro and to leave the board of directors of CME Group.

Remember being in high school? What if this beast tried to get into your shorts?

UPDATE: Oh That Denny Hastert!

The media is starting to remember the Culture of Corruption theme that drove Denny Hastert's entire political career. Writing for the Daily Beast today, Ana Marie Cox, reminded her readers that "indicting Hastert on the financial charges and lying to investigators rather than on whatever misconduct occurred seems to indicate that those charges were the best investigators could come up with. Presumably, if the misconduct was illegal, they’d have mentioned that-- and indicted him for it. If the conduct was sexual abuse, as sources are saying, then the statute of limitations has run out. It follows that Hastert wasn’t paying hush money to stay out of jail, he was protecting his reputation."
How did Hastert happen to have enough money lying around that paying out $3.5 million was even within the realm of possibility?

Hastert’s ability to participate in the blackmail is, after all, itself a general indictment of D.C.’s “revolving door” money culture, in which former lawmakers move easily from government into lobbying. In Hastert’s case, the ability to profit off of one’s legislative position is especially galling: While in office, Hastert used the earmarking process to turn his investment in some Illinois farmland into a profit of 140 percent when a federal highway project just happened to make its way through those very fields. Indeed, it was this instance of a completely legal form of insider trading that helped prompt Congress to end earmarks.

And, of course, Hastert made even more money once he was out of office. One study found that, on average-- and when the information is publicly available-- former lawmakers get a 1,425 percent raise when they make the jump from Capitol Hill to K Street. Hastert, who was worth between $4 million and $17 million when he left Congress, was making $175,000 as a representative. His K Street bump would be to almost $2.5 million a year.

Okay, he made his money as a lobbyist, doing presumably sneaky lobbyist things. That raises the next question: How can Hastert’s reputation even be worth $3.5 million?

Hastert is a former member of Congress known to have profited off of a shady land deal and he’s a registered lobbyist-- these are already the two professions that Americans regard as the most disreputable careers available. They are literally last (lobbyist) and second-to-last (congressman) on Gallup’s list of what jobs Americans regard as “honest” and “ethical.” What would one have to do to be thought even less of?
Child rape?

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At 3:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really don't think it is fair or appropriate to put up that picture of the wrestling team, at least with their faces unblurred. Those are kids (at the time) and, if the things being bandied about end up true, one or more of them could have been victims (and the others were, still, just kids at the time). Love your site and commentary overall, but I hope you will reconsider using that team photo picture.

At 7:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree about taking down the wrestling team photo. Poor form, DWT. Otherwise, good piece.

At 8:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I understand the criticism of using the wrestling team photo but don't agree with the criticism. It's a public photo. It's been used many times. It highlights the historic damage this former top political criminal has done. Covering up his criminal nature is, to me, the same as covering up the crimes. If Hastert's crimes as coach had been more publicized during the attention they received when it came out years later that Hastert had covered up Republican Congressman Mark Foley's sexual predatory actions against congressional male pages, then the law and everyone would have been better served than the media having just continued to hush it up, which is what happened. The wrestling team photo should have been featured on newspaper front pages back then and should today as well. Quit being so hypersensitive about outing sexual predators. The identities of who was abused won't be made public without a caswe going forward. And if a case goes forward, the names SHOULD be revealed.

At 9:56 PM, Blogger Clif Brown said...

Illinois is in the worst financial shape of any state, and the General Assembly is funding statues of politicians?

At 2:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder if any of the GOP knuckledraggers in Hastert's old RED IL14 can appreciate the irony of their disdain for an HONEST Gay politician like Barney Frank vs the apparent Gay pedophile that they continually reelected? And some of his major "accomplishments".

Denny led the Neocon Bushie's charge to Illegally invade Iraq, and made a quick $1.8 million on an undisclosed real estate purchase on his "wife's" taxes for the "Prairie Parkway", RIP. And Denny did some AMAZING work in Turkey while a congresscritter that earned him a $35k a month contract after he retired and a lot of questions about what exactly he DID for Turkey during his tenure and what it cost. But it was Foleygate, a sex scandal that signaled the end of an otherwise unremarkable career as DeLay's puppet that brought coach Hastert down.

And now it all begins to unwind. You get caught by your own cash withdrawal clause in the Patriot Act paying your blackmailer and/or abusee. $3.5 million, that's a lot of Turkish Lira! Who sucks the most now?

At 4:29 PM, Anonymous Bil said...

Second the John Laesch accolades. That one goes in the DCCC Hall of Shame, getting bigger all the time.


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