Ed Driscoll

'Yeesh. We Don’t Know What Dennis Hastert Did, But...'

“The Most Ominous Opening to a Scandal in a Long Time,” as spotted by Jim Geraghty in his emailed Morning Jolt:

Yeesh. We don’t know what Dennis Hastert did . . .

According to the indictment, the former House Speaker agreed to pay $3.5 million in 2010 to a person identified only as “Individual ‘A,” in an effort to “compensate and conceal” Hastert’s “prior misconduct.”

The indictment doesn’t reveal details of the misconduct, but it does note the two have known each other for “most of Individual A’s life” and that the individual is from the same Illinois town where from 1965 to 1981 “Hastert was a high school teacher and ‎wrestling coach.”

To conceal the relationship, prosecutors allege that Hastert, over a four year period, withdrew a total of $1.7 million from a number of his personal bank accounts to give to Individual A.

According to the indictment, at first, he took out large amounts — “$50,000 withdrawals of cash” on 15 occasions. But when “bank representatives questioned” him in 2012, “Hastert began withdrawing cash in increments of less than $10,000” because banks are required by federal law to report anything larger.

In 2014 the FBI questioned Hastert about his withdrawals, and he allegedly lied, telling agents “Yeah… I kept the cash. That’s what I’m doing,” explaining that he did not trust the banking system.

. . . but whatever Hastert did, we can all take a guess at what kind of a secret is so bad that it’s worth paying $3.5 million for and sufficiently damaging that it would destroy the life of a 73-year-old man long removed from political office and enjoying a quiet, lucrative life as a lobbyist. The fact that the indictment pointed out the alleged blackmailer’s connection to where Hastert was a high-school teacher and coach sure seems . . . particular.

I hope somebody’s keeping an eye on him.

“So What Did Hastert Do?”  Tom Maguire is speculating on possible scenarios, including:

Hastert is paying child support to the mother (or child) of an out-of-wedlock relationship from his youth. A possible clue – the indictment is quoted as saying, my emphasis, that Hastert was paying in order to compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct…”. And why is this coming out now? Well, for years Hastert was a lowly-paid teacher, and then a (relatively) low-paid member of the House. But now? Back to the Times:

Since leaving office, Mr. Hastert has been a prominent lobbyist in Washington. He is co-leader of the Public Policy & Political Law Practice at the Washington law firm of Dickstein Shapiro, according to the firm’s website.

And he moonlights as the firm’s bagman, paying off officials and staffers that the lobbyists are bribing? Please. Hastert is finally cashing in on his Washington connections, as is his acquaintance from his youth. And for all anyone knows, Hastert may have been paying this person a pittance out of his own somewhat larger pittance for years without attracting attention; this only caught the Feds attention when Hastert’s paycheck spiked.

Could that be it? As Glenn Reynolds writes, “Well, stay tuned.” And as he spots in Maguire’s comments, “Hastert should have started a charity and hired this person on at a Blumenthalian pay level.”

Heh, indeed.™