Former Republican U.S. House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert was indicted by a grand jury on Thursday for violating federal banking laws and for lying to the FBI. Hastert, the longest serving GOP House Speaker in U.S. history, was charged with one count of structuring currency transactions to evade Currency Transaction Reports and a single count of making a false statement to the FBI.
Hastert allegedly violated federal banking laws by attempting to conceal 1.7 million dollars in “hush money” to an unidentified individual, in exchange for that person not revealing Hastert’s involvement in “past misconduct”. Hastert agreed to pay 3.5 million dollars in “hush money” to the unidentified acquaintance, of which 1.7 million in payments were made between 2010 and 2014.
Each of the two felony charges could land Hastert up to five years in prison and a 250,000 dollar fine if he is convicted. Hastert was the longest serving Republican House Speaker in U.S. history. He served as Speaker of the House for eight years, from January 1999 when he succeeded Newt Gingrich, until January 2007, when Democrat Nancy Pelosi took his speaker’s gavel, after Democrats reclaimed the House majority as a result of the 2006 midterm elections.
Hastert’s leadership was tarnished after it became apparent that the GOP leadership under Hastert had ignored the scandal involving GOP Rep. Mark Foley (FL) making inappropriate sexual advances towards underage male pages. Foley resigned from Congress in 2006 over the allegations.
The seven page indictment against Hastert does not detail the specific misconduct the former Congressman was trying to hide by paying out the hush money. It does however reveal a pattern of deception that included lying to FBI officials.
Hastert’s dishonesty reveals his immersion in a culture of corruption. While the former House Speaker, like all criminal defendants, is presumed innocent until proven guilty, the indictment raises questions about Hastert’s integrity. Those questions were raised frequently while he was in Congress, and now it appears that they will dog him in his post-congressional life as well.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.