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“The Squeaky Clean Republican Leader”: After Admitting Sex Crimes, Former House Speaker Headed To Prison

Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert has been accused of sexually abusing four teenaged boys during his tenure as a high school coach many years ago, but the statute of limitations has expired and he cannot face charges for these misdeeds. The Illinois Republican was, however, arrested for lying to the FBI about covering up his sex crimes.

And this afternoon, it was this misconduct that will put Hastert behind bars.

Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert was sentenced Wednesday to 15 months in prison for illegal cash withdrawals he made for payoffs to cover up sex-abuse allegations after the judge called him a “serial child molester.”

Before issuing his sentence, Judge Thomas M. Durkin pressed the former House Speaker on the details of his misconduct, asking Hastert directly if he sexually abused his victims. “Yes,” Hastert said, publicly acknowledging this for the first time. He added, “What I did was wrong and I regret it. They looked to me and I took advantage of them.”

In an additional gut-wrenching detail, one of these victims, Scott Cross, testified today that Hastert molested him when Cross was a teenager. Cross is the younger brother of former Illinois House Republican leader Tom Cross, who looked up to Hastert as a political mentor.

Hastert actually asked Tom Cross for a letter of support as part of his criminal case, despite the fact that Hastert molested his younger brother.

As part of this morning’s proceedings, the judge in the case explained, in reference to Hastert’s political career, “Sometimes actions can obliterate a lifetime of good works.” The judge referred to Hastert three times as a “serial child molester.”

In a breathtaking letter to the judge, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) recently wrote, “We all have our flaws, but Dennis Hastert has very few.” DeLay added that Hastert “doesn’t deserve what he is going through.”

Evidently, that didn’t prove persuasive.

There is, of course, the human element of this heartbreaking story, and the anguish felt by Hastert’s victims and their families. And then there are the political implications: the longest serving Republican House Speaker in American history, a man who was two heartbeats from the presidency of the United States for eight years, appears to have spent part of his life as a serial child molester, unbeknownst to anyone except Hastert and his victims.

As we discussed a few weeks ago, from 1998 to 2006, House Republicans suffered one ugly scandal after another. Democrats used the “culture of corruption” label to great effect because it was true – from Gingrich to Livingston, DeLay to Cunningham, Ney to Foley, the GOP’s House majority just couldn’t stay out of trouble.

But no matter how many scandals surrounded House Republicans, GOP officials pointed to the humble Speaker from Illinois as the squeaky clean leader, elevated to the post from relative obscurity because of his above-the-fray reputation.

And now we know his conduct was far worse than any of his colleagues’.

In addition to his 15-month sentence, Hastert will also reportedly have to pay a $250,000 fine and take part in sex-offender programs.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog,  April 27, 2016

April 28, 2016 Posted by | Dennis Hastert, House Republicans, Sexual Molestation, Speaker of The House of Representatives | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Real Scandal In Denny Hastert’s Life”: Immersed In The Immoral Swamp Of Washington’s Game Of Money Politics

Washington’s establishment of politicos, lobbyists, and media sparklies are shocked — shocked to their very core! — by the scandalous sexual revelations about Dennis Hastert.

The portly Republican, who’d been Speaker of the House a decade ago, was an affable, nondescript Midwesterner who was popular with his fellow lawmakers. A former high-school wrestling coach in rural Illinois, Hastert was viewed as a solid salt-of-the-Earth fellow embodying Middle America’s moral values. So his recent indictment for paying $1.7 million in hush money to a man he apparently molested during his coaching years has rocked our Capitol.

“I’m shocked and saddened,” said the current GOP Speaker, John Boehner. Likewise, former colleagues from both sides of the aisle were dismayed that “our Denny” would have been engaged in child molestation and now caught in an illegal financial cover-up of that abomination. “This has really come out of nowhere,” exclaimed Rep. Peter King, a longtime ally of the man whom all of Washington considered a straight arrow.

Washington’s gossip mill is spinning furiously over last week’s revelations. Before we join these officials in wailing about Dennis Hastert’s alleged long-hidden molestation, however, let me note that while they are bewildered by his sexual impropriety, they find it not worthy of mention — much less condemnation — that Denny has long been immersed in the immoral swamp of Washington’s game of money politics. The guy they profess to love as a paragon of civic virtue — “the coach,” as Rep. King hailed him — was one of the most corrupt Speakers ever. What about the filthy, backroom affair he has been openly conducting with corporate lobbyists for nearly two decades?

During his tenure as House Speaker, Hastert turned the place into the Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory of corporate favors. By putting campaign cash into Republican re-election coffers controlled by him and his top hitman, Majority Leader Tom DeLay, corporate interests gained entry into Denny’s psychedelic playhouse. With Hastert himself singing “Candy Man,” the favor seekers could help themselves to the river of chocolate running through Congress’ back rooms.

Remember “earmarks,” the sneaky tactic of letting congressional leaders secretly funnel appropriations to favored corporations and projects? Earmarks became the trademark of Hastert’s regime, sticking taxpayers with the tab for such outrages as Alaska’s “Bridge to Nowhere.” Indeed, Denny grabbed a $200 million earmark for himself, funding an Illinois highway near land he owned — land he then sold, netting millions in personal profit.

When he left Congress, Hastert moved just a short limo ride away to become — what else? — a corporate lobbyist. Trading on his former title, personal ties to House members and knowledge of how the chocolate factory runs, he has been hauling in a fortune as a high-dollar influence peddler for makers of candy-flavored cigarettes, Peabody Coal Company, land developers and other giants. And guess what his specialty is? Getting “riders” attached to appropriations bills, so public money is channeled directly to his clients.

Hastert openly traded legislative favors for campaign cash, including profiting personally from his powerful position. And, when he was squeezed out because of the corruption, he didn’t return to the home folks — he became a K-Street lobbyist, continuing to profit to this day by doing corporate favors. That’s how he got so rich he was able to shell out $1.7 million in hush money to the student he abused.

Good ol’ Denny has always thought he was above the law. Just as Hastert should be held accountable for the deep personal damage his alleged molestation would’ve done to his former student, so should he also pay for his abominably indecent abuse of office, his self-gratifying groping of public funds and his repeated, sticky-fingered violations of the American people’s public trust.

 

By: Jim Hightower, The National Memo, June 3, 3015

June 5, 2015 Posted by | Corporate Welfare, Dennis Hastert, Sexual Molestation | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Conservatives Rectitude And Piety”: Coach Denny, Grandma Nancy, And America’s Family Values

Republicans on Capitol Hill keep telling everyone how terribly shocked they are by the tawdry tale of Dennis Hastert, the former Speaker of the House indicted last week for violations of federal money-laundering statutes in an effort to cover up alleged sexual abuse of a male high-school student many years ago.

Long upheld as a paragon of Midwestern conservative values, Hastert represented a suburban Illinois district and became his party’s longest-serving Speaker. Like Newt Gingrich, who preceded him in that post, Hastert avidly prosecuted the impeachment of Bill Clinton for trying to conceal an extramarital affair. Unlike Gingrich, whose own serial adulteries became a national joke, Hastert was evidently never suspected of any such “misconduct,” as the indictment described it.

“I don’t see how this didn’t come up on the radar before,” said a former Hastert aide following the release of his indictment.  “It’s sort of beyond belief.”

But is it truly beyond belief, at this very late date, to learn that yet another moralizing politician or preacher was always an utter hypocrite? Not unless you haven’t been paying attention for the past two decades or so. Or you’ve been mesmerized into believing the propaganda that claims only one party — the GOP — represents “family values.”

A decade ago, Hastert was hailed as a partisan symbol of superior virtue, notably in John Mickelthwaite and Adrian Wooldridge’s The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America, which gleefully predicted endless victories for the Republicans and doom for the Democrats. Written by a pair of British Tories who then held top positions at The Economist magazine, that work invidiously contrasted then-Speaker Hastert with Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, his counterpart on the other side of the aisle – and described their districts as emblematic of red and blue America.

Mickelthwaite (now editor-in-chief at Bloomberg) and Wooldridge waxed on lyrically and at daunting length in praise of Coach Denny and “Hastertland,” while they cast a censorious gaze upon Nancy and “Pelosiville,” also known as San Francisco or, again in their words, “the capital of gay America.” Their description of Hastert — “a fairly straightforward conservative: antiabortion, anti-gay marriage” – rings with irony today. So does their depiction of Pelosi’s urban constituency as “a peculiar mix of blue bloods and gays, dotcom millionaires and aging hippies,” set against the “resolutely ‘normal’ ” people represented by Hastert, who “think of themselves as typical Americans.”

Key to understanding the two districts and therefore American politics, according to the authors, were differing attitudes toward “the importance of family life,” orthodox religion, and “social disorder.” In Hastertland, churches and families were growing, streets were clean, and vagrancy eliminated – and in Pelosiville exactly the reverse, with secularism rampant, bums everywhere, and even an outpost of the Church of Satan.

“Looking at ‘Pelosiville’ and ‘Hastertland,’“ they concluded, “it is not difficult to see why American politics has shifted to the Right.”

As it turned out, The Right Nation was mostly wrong, about the fates of the two major parties and much else besides. But what was most wrong was the insinuation that Republicans stand for more elevated values than Democrats, or that conservatives are morally purer than liberals. To take their own example, we now know what we know about Hastert – and we also know that Pelosi, mother of five, grandmother of eight, married more than 50 years to the same husband, advocate of gay marriage and reproductive rights, is today far more credible as a symbol of “family values” and family life.

None of this should be surprising, with all due respect to the shocked, shocked, shocked Republicans. In 2003, after Hastert already had ascended to third in line from the presidency, I reviewed the endless ranks of right-wing moral mountebanks – the cheating celebrity evangelists, the homophobic gay politicians, the lecherous legislators, and others too raunchy to mention here – in one chapter of a book called Big Lies. I included many stories about Hastert’s House colleagues, partying amid their pursuit of Clinton; some were amusing, some quite depressing. Of course, I didn’t know about “Coach Denny” back then.

But with or without his sad story, the conclusion would be the same: that liberals “care about families and children just as much as conservatives do – and that their more tolerant, humane policies do more to help families than the selfish and self-righteous approach of the Republican right.”

What should have changed by now, whenever conservatives start to cluck about their rectitude and piety, is whether anybody still listens.

 

By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editors Blog, The National Memo, June 3, 2015

June 4, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, Dennis Hastert, Family Values | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“How ‘Public Servant’ Hastert Got His Riches”: An Indictment Of D.C.’s “Revolving Door” Money Culture

Not-so-frequently Asked Questions About the Hastert Indictment.

It’s clear that the indictment of Dennis Hastert has raised more questions than it’s provided answers. But I suspect a lot of people are asking the wrong ones. Hastert’s “misconduct” may turn out to be of sexually predatory nature, in which case talk of how much his reputation is worth is picayune compared the nature of the crime. But there are questions about what he did that are applicable to the entire industry he represents.

The most obvious question, that’s also the least relevant for most Americans: What is the “misconduct” that Hastert is alleged to have been trying to cover up?

This is an important question, to be sure, but 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.

A better question, and one that many Washington watchdogs leapt on quickly: 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?

Given the ickiness of what has been reported, it might not be good to think about that question too hard, so let’s turn that question on its head: What kind of reputation could be worth spending $3.5 million to protect?

To consider $3.5 million a reasonable sum to spend on protecting one’s reputation, presumably it has to be worth a lot more than that. And, indeed, in the context of the lobbying world, $3.5 million just isn’t that much money. Especially considering that Hastert was apparently making pay-offs over time. Special interest groups spent almost 1000 times that—$3.2 billion—in 2015 alone. If Hastert viewed protecting his reputation as a kind of investment in future earnings, $3.5 million is on the scale of buying an alarm system for your home, not buying a whole other house.

And, it’s important to remember, what Hastert was covering up with that hush money was not a “reputation” as an average citizen might conceive of it: something akin to honor or trustworthiness or fidelity. A lobbyist’s reputation, after all, actually hinges on his or her established lack of principles. A lobbying client for someone who is a former member of Congress is paying a premium for that person’s willingness to engage in barely-legal favor-trading. A lobbyist’s prices go up the more corrupt he is. Who wants to hire an honest one?

 

By: Ana Marie Cox, The Daily Beast, May 30, 2015

May 31, 2015 Posted by | Congress, Dennis Hastert, Lobbyists | , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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