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Dennis Hastert's Highway to (Financial) Heaven

Speaker’s Earmark for Highway Likely Lined His Own Pockets, Speaker Failed to Disclose Information

June 15, 2006

Contact: Gabriela Schneider 202-742-1520 ext 236

A new, explosive finding from the Sunlight Foundation has connected a controversial multi-hundred-million highway earmark, championed by Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL), to an investment in nearby land made by the Speaker and his wife. The sale of that land made just after the highway was funded, likely netted the Hasterts millions of dollars. The Speaker has failed to disclose his interest in the trust.

WASHINGTON, DC – A new, explosive finding from the Sunlight Foundation has connected a controversial multi-hundred-million highway earmark, championed by Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL), to an investment in nearby land made by the Speaker and his wife. The sale of that land made just after the highway was funded, likely netted the Hasterts millions of dollars. The Speaker has failed to disclose his interest in the trust.

The full findings of The Sunlight Foundation, with documentation, can be found here: http://www.sunlightfoundation.com/node/793

“The Sunlight Foundation findings certainly show that the Speaker hasn’t met his obligations to fully disclose his financial dealings,” said Bill Allison, a Senior Fellow at Sunlight. “It begs the question, what else is he hiding?”

At issue is the Prairie Parkway, a limited access, north-south roadway connecting two east-west interstates, I-88 and I-80. Though Hastert has spoken forcefully about the need for the highway, many in Illinois see it as unnecessary, favoring more money for other highway improvements. Hastert secured $207 million for construction of the highway as part of the SAFE-TEA legislation, signed by the President on August 10, 2005.

The Prairie Parkway would run right past a new 1,600-home development built on what had been 727 acres of farmland located just a few miles from highway's proposed corridor in Kendall County. Of those 727 acres, the Hasterts – through a convoluted arrangement involving a trust headed by the treasurer of the Speaker’s campaign committee – contributed 69 acres of their own and a quarter share of 69 other acres. That trust, Little Rock Trust #225, to which the Hasterts transferred control of their land to, lists Dallas C. Ingemunson – Hastert’s campaign treasurer – as the head.

Just four months after the President signed Hastert’s earmark for the highway into law, Little Rock Trust #225 sold its interest – the Hasterts’ interest – in the land for $4.9 million. Previously, in a 2004 disclosure, Speaker Hastert estimated the worth of part of that land between $250,001 and $500,000. The remaining 69 acres of land was bought for $11,000 per acre by the Hastert’s in 2002. This means the Hasterts, through the Little Rock Trust #225 sale, potentially made millions.

“Speaker Hastert’s trust allowed him to profit—in secrecy—from the very growth that he cites to justify the Prairie Parkway,” said Allison. “It is just antithetical to the idea that constituents ought to know what their elected officials are up to.”

The mission of the Sunlight Foundation is to use the transformative power of the Internet and new information technology to enable citizens to learn more about what Congress and their elected representatives are doing, and thus help reduce corruption, ensure greater transparency and accountability by government, and foster public trust in the vital institutions of democracy.