Denny Hastert Under Investigation?


On Wednesday, the FBI raided Hastert’s boyhood home, seen above.

ABC News’ Brian Ross is reporting that Denny Hastert is under investigation in connection with the ever-widening Jack Abramoff scandal. How’s that ethics reform comin’ now, Denny?

This is particularly interesting given Hastert’s strong opposition to the FBI raid on the offices of Rep. William Jefferson, who allegedly took a $100K bribe and hid the remaining $90K in his freezer.

Why would Hastert, Speaker of the House and a Republican, give political cover to a disgraced Democrat? Well, maybe because Denny himself senses that the FBI may come a’ knockin’ on his door sometime very soon. Nah, that couldn’t be it- I’m sure this is just one big coincidence. (For my take on what the Jefferson scandal tells us about both the Republican and Democrat parties, go here).

From Brian Ross’ article on ABC News’ “The Blotter”:

“Federal officials say the Congressional bribery investigation now includes Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, based on information from convicted lobbyists who are now cooperating with the government.

Part of the investigation involves a letter Hastert wrote three years ago, urging the Secretary of the Interior to block a casino on an Indian reservation that would have competed with other tribes.

The other tribes were represented by convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff who reportedly has provided details of his dealings with Hastert as part of his plea agreement with the government.

The letter was written shortly after a fund-raiser for Hastert at a restaurant owned by Abramoff. Abramoff and his clients contributed more than $26,000 at the time.

The day Abramoff was indicted, Hastert denied any unlawful connection and said he would donate to charity any campaign contribution he had received from Abramoff and his clients.

A spokesman for Speaker Hastert told ABC News, “We are not aware of this. The Speaker has a long history and a well-documented record of opposing Indian Reservation shopping for casino gaming purposes. Besides, Denny has an airtight alibi- he was involved in an eating contest on the day the misdeeds are alleged to have taken place.” (OK, so I made that last part up.)

Hastert has claimed that he is innocent and has demanded a retraction from ABC News. The Justice Department released a statement saying “”With regard to reports suggesting that the speaker of the House is under investigation or ‘in the mix,’ as stated by ABC News, I reconfirm, as stated by the Department earlier this evening, that these reports are untrue,” Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty said.”

However, ABC News has said they stand by their story and will not retract it: “The network said law enforcement sources told ABC that the Justice Department denial meant only that the speaker was not a formal “target” or “subject” of the probe, not that he wasn’t under investigation.”

ABC also notes that “House Speaker Dennis Hastert is the No.1 individual recipient of money from Abramoff and his clients, with a total of $68,300 contributed to his campaign committee and leadership PAC from 1998 to 2004.”

Now, $68K over a period of 6 years sure doesn’t sound like much, as Hastert’s supporters will no doubt be quick to point out. But perhaps they are missing the point. Maybe it’s not that Abramoff gave Hastert a ridiculously large sum of money to do his client’s bidding, but rather, that the Speaker of the House can apparently be bought outright for SO LITTLE that is alarming.


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