Dennis Hastert’s History as Speaker


The Mark Foley scandal has engulfed the Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, R-Ill. Today the conservative Washington Times called for the Speaker’s resignation and Majority Leader John Boehner reiterated that Hastert had told him that the matter would be taken care of earlier this year. Hastert was once said to “take this laissez-faire attitude on things”. This is evident in the Foley case, but it is also clear from his history as Speaker. Hastert, not acting like a good coach, seems to let problems fester or he actively works to cover them up. It comes as no surprise that his stewardship of the House has come under fire due to the revelations of the Foley scandal.

Looking back on Hastert’s rule as Speaker you can find numerous instances where he not only did not take the lead but led Congress in the wrong direction.

March, 1999: Hastert’s rise to Speaker attracts swarms of Washington lobbyists. In a departure from former Speaker New Gingrich’s fundraising in Southern and Midwestern states Hastert “has begun offering industry lobbyists the kind of deal they like: private audiences where, for a price, they can voice their views on what kind of agenda the 106th Congress should pursue.”

1999-2006: Earmarking under Hastert’s leadership explodes. In 1999 there were only 2,838 earmarks. In 2005 there were 13,997. That is nearly a 400 percent increase in earmarking.

June, 2003: Hastert holds a fundraiser at Jack Abramoff’s restaurant Signatures and collects $21,500 for his Keep Our Majority PAC. Seven days later Hastert signs a letter to Interior Secretary Gale Norton along with the rest of the House leadership in support of one of Abramoff’s tribal clients. The letter was written by Abramoff’s lobbying team. Hastert’s campaign committee and PAC took in well over $100,000 from Jack Abramoff and his clients throughout the years.

November, 2003: The vote on the Medicare prescription drug bill was held open for three hours as Hastert and the Republican leadership tried to switch votes to pass the bill. Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, was later admonished by the House Ethics Committee for “inappropriate behavior” when he offered support for the candidacy of retiring Rep. Nick Smith’s, R-Michigan, son in exchange for Smith switching his “nay” vote to “yea”. Hastert talked to Smith fours times during the three-hour vote. Independent political observers have widely claimed that the three-hour vote was an extreme abuse of the legislative process.

November, 2004: Hastert engineers a rule change that protects the leadership post of the ethically challenged Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, in case he is indicted on felony charges for his role in the 2003 Texas redistricting.

November, 2004: Hastert announces a policy whereby he will rule by a “majority of the majority.” This policy states that “Congress will pass bills only if most House Republicans back them, regardless of how many Democrats favor them.”

February, 2005: Hastert purges the House Ethics Committee of Republicans who voted to admonish Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, and replaces them with top dollar recipients of DeLay’s PAC’s largesse. The Ethics Committee shuts down in protest of Hastert’s actions.

August, 2005: Hastert secures a $207 million earmark to build the Prairie Parkway though his district. The earmark would significantly raise the price of land that Hastert had recently purchased through a trust that was not properly disclosed in his personal financial disclosure statements.

Fall, 2005: Hastert’s office is warned of inappropriate e-mails sent by Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fl., to underage male pages.

November, 2005: Rep. Don Sherwood, R-Pa., settles out of court with his former mistress on charges that he choked her. Sherwood continues to serve in the House.

December, 2005: Hastert and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist sneak language into a Defense Department spending conference report that would give “the Secretary of Health and Human Services the ability to suspend the ability of the public to file liability claims against vaccine manufacturers if he or she determines that there is an imminent threat of a pandemic viral outbreak.” The inserted language would be worth billions of dollars for foreign drug makers in the event of an outbreak.

March, 2006: Rep. Tom Reynolds, R-N.Y., tells Hastert directly about the inappropriate e-mails sent by Rep. Foley to underage pages.

May, 2006: Hastert launches an attack on the FBI for raiding the offices of Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., who is under investigation for accepting bribes and accused of hiding subpoenaed material in his congressional office. After demanding that the documents be immediately returned to Jefferson’s office Hastert reaches a deal with the FBI to have the documents reviewed by Jefferson and Justice Department officials.

Spring, 2006: Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, talks to Hastert about the inappropriate e-mails. Hastert assured Boehner that he would “take care of it.”

September, 2006: Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, pleads guilty to accepting bribes from lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Ney has not been forced to resign by Hastert and the leadership and still retains his seat in the current Congress.