Abramoff Scandal | Law | Politics

Republican former congressman Dennis Hastert hit with charges

Dennis Hastert during his years in Congress. Photo from U.S. House of Representatives

A Republican former congressman who was tied to the Jack Abramoff scandal and once tried to extinguish tribal treaty rights was indicted by a federal grand jury on Thursday.

Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois) is accused of lying to the FBI about his attempts to evade federal banking laws. He repeatedly withdrew money from his accounts in order to pay $3.5 million to an unidentified person for "past misconduct," according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

The charges do not appear to be tied to Hastert's 20-year career in the U.S. House, where served as speaker for a record-setting eight years. He resigned in 2007 after being linked to the Abramoff scandal and for his handling of a different scandal involving a Republican colleague who was accused of inappropriate contact with Congressional pages.

Hastert, 73, denied any wrongdoing in connection with Abramoff. He accepted campaign contributions from the convicted lobbyist and asked the Bush administration to reject a land-into-trust application for an impoverished and small tribe in Louisiana at the urging of Abramoff's wealthy tribal clients.

Hastert also sponsored an ill-fated bill to extinguish all treaty rights in Illinois. He did so even though the Interior Department said tribes have strong claims to land in the state.

He repeatedly spoke out against tribes seeking to re-establish ties in Illinois. But after Republicans lost the House in November 2006, Hastert appeared at a public meeting with the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation from Kansas, whose leaders purchased land within an ancestral reservation that's located in the former congressman's district.

Hastert became a lobbyist after leaving Capitol Hill. He resigned from Dickstein Shapiro and his biography was removed from the firm's website yesterday as the indictment was being announced.

Get the Story:
Hastert, the accidental House speaker, faces own scandal after noted career (The Chicago Tribune 5/29)
Ex-Speaker Hastert charged with lying to FBI about hush money withdrawals (The Chicago Tribune 5/29)
Former House speaker Dennis Hastert indicted over alleged secret payments (The Washington Post 5/29)
U.S. Accuses Ex-House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert of Paying to Hide ‘Misconduct’ (5/28)

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