Former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert pleaded guilty on Wednesday to federal charges of evading bank rules about large cash transactions after reaching a deal with prosecutors in a hush-money case stemming from allegations of sexual misconduct.
Federal prosecutors recommended a sentence of zero to six months in prison for Hastert, but the judge said he could potentially sentence him to up to five years and a fine of up to $250,000 when he is sentenced in February.
The plea to one count of “structuring” – taking money out of the bank in amounts below $10,000 to evade bank reporting rules on large cash movements – marks a dramatic downfall for someone who once ranked among the country’s most powerful politicians.
It is interesting that this is happening on the same day that will likely see Paul Ryan elected the new speaker of the House. As the GOP has waded through its internecine squabbles since John Boehner announced he was stepping down, the Gingrich-to-Hastert transition was often cited as an example of what a more functional and quick transition looked like. Hastert was the “safe” pick back then. He was relatively unknown on the national stage but was seen as the man who would be a calming influence.
As this tragic tale indicates, he may not have been ready for that much power.
It could also just mean that they all go bad after a while up on Capitol Hill.