Thursday, May 25, 2006

Denny Hastert Is Not A Crook

ABC News led off its evening news broadcast yesterday with a report that House Speaker Dennis Hastert is under investigation by federal authorities in connection with the Jack Abramoff bribery scandal. The Department of Justice quickly put out a statement denying the Speaker was under investigation, and Hastert demanded a retraction and apology from ABC News. ABC is sticking by its original story, but I feel confident in stating my belief that Denny Hastert is not a crook--at least the Denny Hastert I worked with 20 years ago as a legislative staffer in the Illinois House of Representatives.

Before Hastert was elected to Congress, he served as a member of the Illinois House of Representatives while I worked on the staff of the House Republican Staff. My contacts with him were primarily as a member of the House Revenue Committee, which I staffed. Hastert later became our party's spokesman on the Appropriations Committee, which brought his office just down the hall from mine in a suite of offices shared with staff members on the second floor of the State House.

Hastert was quite the work horse. He wasted no time in becoming noticed in the Illinois legislature. The former wresting coach had his hands in everything he could get a hold of, a move which sometimes earned him the ire of my boss the House Republican Leader because of his willingness to cross the aisle and work with Democrats to get legislation he wanted through the legislature, and which sometimes conflicted with our own leader's agenda. Hastert did not over-indulge in the lavish social entertainment Springfield's lobbyists offered members and their staff as many of his colleagues did. Instead, you would often find him working late hours in his office.

Hastert could at times be a very difficult person with whom to work. He once dressed me down for incorrectly analyzing some forgettable township assessors bill he was sponsoring in front of all the Republican members of the House Revenue Committee because of some bad information which was furnished to him by a lobbyist. When corrected on the lobbyist's mistake, he never offered an apology to me, although the lobbyist did. He could also be vindictive at times. I distinctly remember him asking his fellow Republican members on the Revenue Committee to help him in killing a bill sponsored by then-Rep. Dick Klemm because Klemm as Hastert put it "had done a number on his bill" in another committee on which Klemm served.

Whatever I can say of Hastert from that short period of time I worked with him, I cannot say that he was a crook. There was nothing about his style, approach or character which could ever lead me to conclude he is capable of being bribed. I frankly admired his courage in challenging leadership when he questioned their judgment, even at the expense of killing any opportunity he had of moving into leadership. I always suspected that's why he was so anxious to get elected to Congress--he knew he could never move into leadership as long as my boss was in charge.

There's no doubt that Hastert has changed a lot from those days in Springfield. His own rise to the Speakership at the hands of the ethically-challenged former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay no doubt led him to compromise some of his long-held beliefs. One also can make no excuses for Hastert making a terrible decision to write a letter to the Interior Department on behalf of one of Jack Abramoff's Indian gaming clients and accepting generous contributions from Abramoff. The letter, in particular, is a mistake he should have never made, and for which he is now paying a big price. But I just cannot believe Hastert would have broken the law to help Abramoff. Washington would have had to really change the man I worked with in Springfield for that to have happened.


Anonymous said...

OMG.. Hastert undressed you in front of the committee? Oh wait, you mean he dressed you down-- or chastised you, right? ;-)

Darn, and I was ready for a nice juicy sex scandal for the Republicans...guess only Democrats have those. Republicans (especially really moral upright ones) just marry the secretary they have been screwing behind their wife's backs. LOL. is it Friday yet?

Gary R. Welsh said...

Okay Randy, you got me on that one.I'm glad to see you have a sense of humor. I will correct it to avoid any further confusion.

Gary R. Welsh said...

And by the way--Hastert was not one of those cads who cheated on his wife while he was working down in Springfield, although there were plenty who did from both sides of the aisle.

Anonymous said...

"guess only Democrats have those". Oh please. How 'bout we stick with Illinois and go with Jack Ryan for $200.

Oh, and BTW, 20 years is a LONG time to not know someone and make broad statements based on their character.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Anonymous 6:59--do you not understand the meaning of "both sides of the aisle?" That means Republicans and Democrats.

Anonymous said...

yes gary, I do, I was commenting on randy's comment, not yours. although looking back, i realize i missed part of his post. I guess that is what I get for blogging and watching Mythbusters at the same time.

sorry! long day.

Anonymous said...

Ya know.. sometimes you just have to post a laugh. But I agree, Hastert is not on the radar screen as a marriage cheat. Anyone want to start a list of those with marital problems who see nothing wrong with making "sanctity of one man one woman (at a time) marriage" their slogan???

I suggest Hypocrite in General -- Eric Miller...not to mention Bob Dole and Newt Gingrich. I understand there are substantial rumors about a certain Indiana Congressman as well...