Bloggers Pick Up Hastert Land Deal Story:


Bill Allison’s story on Dennis Hastert’s land deal has shot off of the pages of Sunlight and out into the blogosphere. Needless to say we’re jumping out of our socks at Sunlight. We know there are thousands of investigators out there, and so much of what we want to do is provide the foothold for them to soar from, creating transparency whether Congress does it voluntarily or not. The blogosphere has picked up the story and is running with it, adding new information, graphic illustrations, and hearty debate. But first don’t forget to read Bill’s original piece and his numerous follow-ups.

Ed Morrissey of Captain’s Quarter’s writes that “Hastert needs to have a response that answers these allegations in toto” since “this looks more like embezzlement than simple corruption … The American people have had enough of pork and the corruption it brings, and speaking for myself at least, I have no intention on ignoring it based on party affiliation.” The comments on Morrissey’s site have taken Hastert’s side believing that the Speaker has not done anything unusual or unseemly. Morrissey responds by stating that “he managed to profit a great deal from pressing for pork which he knew would benefit his trust. That may not be "corruption" in the legal sense, I grant you, but it smells pretty bad. And it’s a great example of why earmarks have to be eliminated from the budgeting process.” (Mark Tapscott notes that that Morrissey found the time to blog about this from a hospital bed while recovering from a ruptured disk!)

Mark Tapscott echoes the concerns of Morrissey on the question of earmarking. Tapscott also says that, “The increased transparency being forced on government by the Blogosphere and other forms of Internet-based media is already making life more difficult for politicos taking advantage of their positions, as House Speaker Dennis Hastert is discovering”.

Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit provides the Hastert story with one of his famed one-sentence links.

Think Progress provides a great service by documenting the land deal with an amazing visual timeline of the Hastert land deal. Here’s a little tidbit from their timeline:

August 2005: Hastert secures $207 million in federal dollars to build the “Prairie Parkway” through his district. The Chicago Tribune describes it as a “pet project” of Hastert’s that will “cut through valuable farmland and increase suburban sprawl.” President Bush comes to IL-14 to sign the bill. Here’s a picture:

Even better they use Google Earth to discover that Hastert’s land is not the 5.5 miles from the proposed freeway exit that Hastert’s lawyer told us in that very calm and non-threatening letter he sent us but is in fact 2.6 miles away. (Check out Bill’s post on this too.) I guess that kind of flies in the face of Hastert’s statement from yesterday, “None of the properties purchased by the speaker are near enough to the Prairie Parkway to be affected by the proposed highway.” One commenter on the Think Progress post points to something overlooked by most commentators on this story. Commenter stuff pulls this quote from the Chicago Sun-Times piece, ““Ingemunson told the Sun-Times that the three bought the 68.9-acre parcel from a farmer who wanted “to have cash immediately,”” to suggest that Hastert purchased his land from a failing farmer. Just another direction this story could go.

Over at TPM Muckraker Paul Kiel picks up the Chicago Tribune article about the land deal and provides the total amount of money that the Speaker made off of the deal: $1.5 million. I’m sure that that farmer didn’t sell Hastert the land for that much. He certainly didn’t if he wanted cash up front.

This shows how the blogosphere can quickly feed off of, and add to, a story. As Mark Tapscott noted, the power of bloggers and citizens who participate online provides us with the ability to force more transparency onto our representatives in government and to fundamentally shift the balance of power into our hands. The Left Coaster blogged about our Assignment Desk here at The Sunlight Foundation and asked readers to contribute to our assignment.

What are your congressmen up to? And what is going on in your district? We can’t find out about every shady real estate deal alone. But we can with the power of the Internet that connects all of us across this country.