Hastert's dodgy real estate, Turkish bribes. Worse than FoleyGate
* Norm Ornstein at TNR:
"Denny Hastert's dodgy real estate deals. Worse than FoleyGate* Lukery:
Until last week, the broad image of House Speaker Dennis Hastert was of an affable, even grandfatherly figure. But Hastert's response--or lack thereof--to the Mark Foley scandal has suddenly put him in the hot seat, requiring even President Bush to defend him. The Speaker's reputation has taken a serious hit. Still, the image remains of an amiable guy, whose sins are more of sloth than malevolence.
Speaker Hastert, however, is no passive figure. When it comes to running the House, Hastert has, in fact, been an aggressive partisan. Recall, for instance, that he personally fired the chairman and two Republican members from the House Ethics Committee after they had the effrontery to rebuke Tom DeLay for misconduct. And when it comes to real estate, he has been a downright wheeler-dealer. Virtually overnight, the speaker's net worth went from approximately $300,000 to at least $6.2 million--thanks, in no small part, to an earmark he authored.
Hastert's real estate transactions have been reported extensively in the Chicago press and picked apart in a June report issued by the Sunlight Foundation. But they have been largely ignored in the national media. A careful examination of the facts in the case, however, leads to the conclusion that there are compelling reasons beyond the Foley case to call for the speaker's resignation from the post.
Hastert has responded forcefully to the allegations of venality. "I owned land, and I sold it, like millions of people do every day." The speaker's office has painted a portrait of a guy who just happened to be driving past a house he liked; he bought it and subsequently, in a straightforward transaction, sold some of the land that came with it for a profit.
The speaker hasn't exactly helped his case with his accounts of the transaction. His office has, for instance, described the Prairie Parkway as located over five miles from his property. But U.S. Geological Survey aerial photographs clearly show it to be about four miles closer than that.
We cannot say at this juncture whether the actions taken by the speaker are illegal. We can say that they do not meet the standards we expect--or should expect--from a member of Congress. And they certainly do not meet the standards we expect from the speaker of the House."
"Denny Hastert's Turkish bribes. Worse than FoleyGate
In David Rose's blockbuster article in Vanity Fair, there are three separate bribery claims:
a) Hastert received tens of thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions
b) Hastert received tens of thousands of dollars in surreptitious payments in exchange for political favors and information. These bribes were delivered in cash in suitcases. We don't know specifically what these payments were for.
c) Hastert is believed to have accepted another $500,000. The details are a little murky, but it has been reported that this payment was in return for pulling a Congressional resolution on the Armenian genocide.
Got that? At least three different bribes that we know about."