Prairie Parkway Miscellany


I’ve been meaning to get a link up to this column from Greg Hinz, of Crain’s Chicago Business, which takes a look at the timeline of House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s real estate deal, and finds that … well, see for yourself:

At the suggestion of longtime associate Dallas Ingemunson, the two and a partner bought another 69 acres adjoining the Hastert farm for $15,000 per. “We had confidence the market would hold,” Mr. Ingemunson says. Besides, he adds, the seller wanted a quick cash deal, so they got a good price.

I’d say. Four months later, Mr. Ingemunson says, the Hastert group signed a contract to sell the 69 acres for $36,000 per — a 140% profit. Mr. Hastert also sold 69 acres of his farm that lacked the road access the rest of the property had, according to Mr. Ingemunson, about tripling his money. Mr. Hastert took most of his combined profits not in cash but in the form of a one-third interest in 140 acres that an Ingemunson-led group owns just south of the farm, Mr. Ingemunson says.

Hastert aides say that land provides a nice buffer from crowds. Mr. Ingemunson says it’s for sale and should net more than the $25,000 an acre his group paid.

Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times, who’s done some fantastic work on the story, touched off a lively discussion with her piece on Hastert’s statements on his financial disclosure form: “I listed it the way the disclosure said I should list it, exactly,” he said. The column and comments make for very interesting reading.

And finally, this Marketplace story, by Steve Henn, details how a group of lawmakers are the draw for an Alaskan charity’s fundraising event: energy industry execs pay a fortune to go fishing and rub elbows with lawmakers at a lodge that charges close to $1,000 a night. Allowing the charity to pay for the trips apparently violated Senate Ethics rules; I found this bit of interest:

Since 1999 Speaker Dennis Hastert has returned to Waterfall Resort almost every year, according to the resort’s staff. Last year he used almost $25,000 from his political action committee to pay for the trip. How he paid during the other years is unclear.

It’s possible that Speaker Hastert and Senator Lott financed their trips themselves. Marketplace asked the lawmakers repeatedly through e-mails, phone calls, and hand-delivered letters. But neither Hastert, Lott, nor their staffs answered our questions.

I’m sort of surprised that a politician could use PAC money to pay for something like that…