Hastert’s Institutional Neglect


Does it surprise anyone that Rep. Tom Reynolds’, R-N.Y., chief of staff Kirk Fordham informed staff of a top House leadership member of Mark Foley’s internet escapades back in 2004? After Fordham "resigned" his position as the chief of staff he admitted that, "…even prior to the existence of the Foley e-mail exchanges I had more than one conversation with senior staff at the highest level of the House of Representatives asking them to intervene when I was informed of Mr. Foley’s inappropriate behavior." As I detailed yesterday nobody should be shocked by the fact that Dennis Hastert doesn’t run a tight ship. In their book, The Broken Branch, congressional scholars Norm Ornstein and Thomas Mann explain Hastert’s actions in the Ethics Committee purge of 2005 thusly:

The signals by the Speaker could not have been more clear: take your responsibilities as guardians of House ethics seriously and you will be the ones stigmatized; play the game and make sure that no ethics issues are raised about your party colleagues or are downplayed and diluted, and career enhancement awaits. (pgs 190-91)

What kind of message does this kind of behavior send to members? If you are Reynolds or Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-La., do you really want to be the one to raise ethics issues forcefully? Even if Hastert and the GOP leadership had any interest in solving ethics issues they could not have referred Foley’s case to the House Ethics Committee because Hastert’s purge knocked the committee out of business.

Hastert’s history of institutional neglect is what places him at the center of this ever growing scandal. Many have already put Hastert’s role as Speaker on a death watch. Let’s see if he can get past this week.