|Hastert shown in 1981 year book photo with Yorkville high school wrestling team|
Now that sources familiar with the federal investigation of former House Speaker Dennis Hastert have confirmed the $3.5 million payment he agreed to make to another man was a male victim of sexual abuse dating back to his days as a high school teacher and wrestling coach at Yorkville High School in Yorkville, Illinois, school officials are being asked about it. Not surprisingly, school officials say records from Hastert's tenure at the school don't indicate any problems. Hastert, who was employed by the school district from 1965 to 1981, left the school shortly after he started his first term as a member of the Illinois House of Representatives. The school's superintendent at the time told The Tribune he remembered Hastert's commitment to his athletes, whom he often took on road trips to wrestling camps or to compete in non-conference events. Some of his former wrestling students told The Tribune they were shocked to hear of the allegations.
Hastert served three terms in the Illinois House, including part of the time I served as a member of the Illinois House Republican Staff. Hastert's office was just down the hallway from mine so I encountered him frequently while the legislature was in session. Hastert, who suffered from diabetes, was considerably overweight. His wife and two young sons occasionally came down to Springfield to visit him. As I mentioned in a previous post, I didn't much care for the guy because of a bad encounter I had where he made false accusations against me in front of several other House members. I thought it was a bit unusual at the time for Hastert to give up his job at the school just because he was a lawmaker. We had quite a few members who juggled their regular teaching jobs with being a state lawmaker. Most lawmakers complained they couldn't live on their legislative salaries alone. Two public jobs in Illinois also meant a much higher pension benefit when you retired. Hastert had a very high opinion of himself and frequently ruffled the feathers of our House Republican Leader. It was not unusual for Hastert to go behind the Republican leadership's back and cut deals with Democrats across the aisle, which infuriated our boss. He was deal-maker who seemed to have little or no philosophical leanings and was a bit too cozy with some lobbyists for my comfort.
The federal indictment against Hastert relied on the $1.7 million in hush payments he made to one of his male student victims as part of a $3.5 million agreement he made with the victim in 2010. Sources familiar with the investigation also say federal investigators talked to another victim as well, but Hastert had not made financial payments to him. During the House page scandal back in 2006 during which Florida U.S. Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) resigned over allegations he had an inappropriate sexual relationship with a male page, investigative reporter Wayne Madsen, a former NSA employee, cited sources in Illinois mentioning that there were persistent rumors in local political gossip that surfaced during his first run for the Illinois House implying that he had engaged in inappropriate relationships with members of the wrestling team he coached at Yorkville. Hastert was later heavily criticized for his handling of the page sex scandal, which Madsen claimed implicated other members of Congress as well.
If Hastert is convicted of the crimes with which he's charged, his public pensions, all three of them, are not likely at risk. According to The Tribune, Hastert collects about $116,000 a year in pensions, including a $73,000 federal pension for 21 years of service as a congressman, a $27,000 pension for his six years of service as a state lawmaker and $16,000 a year he receives for his 16 years of service as a teacher. Because Hastert's alleged federal crimes occurred after he resigned from Congress, his largest pension payment is not at risk. The other two state pensions are likely not at risk as well, although his smallest pension payment from his teaching days is potentially vulnerable.
The Washington Post just now decides to write a story about how wealthy Hastert became while a member of Congress, a story which would have been much more relevant while he was still serving in Congress:
. . . In one controversial transaction conducted through a trust, Hastert reaped millions of dollars by selling farmland near the site of a proposed highway that was to be financed in part with funds that the then-speaker had earmarked.
The rise in Hastert’s personal wealth during his time in Congress was a marked change in lifestyle for the former high school teacher and wrestling coach.
When he arrived in Washington in 1987, Hastert’s biggest asset was a 104-acre farm in southern Illinois that his wife inherited, worth between $50,000 and $100,000, according to his personal financial disclosure. By the time the Illinois Republican left 20 years later, his reported assets had swelled to between $3.1 million and $11.3 million, largely because of his investments in farmland in booming parts of Illinois . . .
It was not until after he was elected speaker in 1999 that Hastert began stepping up his land investments, parlaying some early real estate deals and a small inheritance he had from his father. By the mid-2000s, Hastert and two partners had amassed 138 acres of farmland outside Plano, Ill., several miles from the proposed site of the Prairie Parkway, a highway connector that would have cut through the northern Illinois countryside.
The then-House speaker’s ownership of the property was not a public record, as it was held under a blind land trust called the Little Rock Trust No. 225, which identified only one partner in public filings: Dallas Ingemunson, a local GOP leader and longtime political mentor to Hastert. At the time, Hastert was championing the highway, which opponents said would tear up the farming region and hasten its suburbanization.
“Our sense was this was being crammed down the throats of a rural community backed by commercial interests, and we called him the chief cheerleader of the project,” said Jan Strasma of the Citizens Against the Sprawlway, a local group against the construction of the Prairie Parkway. “He had the power and could put so much money behind the project, it was hard to oppose.”
Hastert eventually earmarked $207 million for the $1 billion parkway project in a federal transportation bill, which then-President George W. Bush signed during a trip to Hastert’s district in August 2005. The Prairie Parkway is crucial for economic development in Kendall and Kane counties,” Bush said during the signing, held at a Caterpillar plant before thousands.
Four months after the bill was signed, Hastert’s trust sold the land to a real estate developer who planned to build 1,700 homes on the parcel. Hastert’s share of the proceeds was worth more than $3 million, Ingemunson later told the Chicago Tribune.
But his role in the deal was not made public until Hastert reported real estate transactions in the area on his annual personal financial disclosure in May 2006, which the Sunlight Foundation used to match against local land records and connect him to the trust.
Hastert dismissed the idea that the land was more valuable because of his earmark. “Nothing to it,” Hastert said at the time.
In the end, the Prairie Parkway never came about. Strasma’s group filed a lawsuit challenging the environmental impact statement, and the federal government rescinded the approval for the project after it failed to get local funding priority. In 2012, the money was diverted to widen an existing two-lane highway in the same area.
Hastert continued to invest in land after the Plano sale, taking as payment from that deal — along with some cash — another parcel in booming Kendall County. He estimated that property’s worth at between $1 million and $5 million when he left office in 2007.I'm also including this interview of investigative reporter Wayne Madsen by InfoWars' Alex Jones. Madsen made shocking allegations of Hastert having inappropriate relationships with his former wrestling team members he coached way back in 2006 during the House page scandal Hastert helped to cover up. His reporting was roundly dismissed by mainstream reporters at the time.