Denny Hastert’s Prosecution And Ron Unz’s Blackmail Theory


As you may have noticed, Ron has this wacky theory that a surprising percentage of our political leaders have, shall we say, compromising incidents in their past. He even speculates that perhaps having something to hide from the public might make a rising politico more attractive to those who make it their business to decide which of the ambitious to help climb the greasy pole of political power.

Of course, that’s just nonsense, and has nothing (I tell you, nothing) to do with this breaking news story in the NYT:

Ex-House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert Indicted on Federal Charges
By MONICA DAVEY MAY 28, 2015

CHICAGO — J. Dennis Hastert, the former speaker of the House of Representatives, was charged on Thursday with lying to the F.B.I. and structuring cash withdrawals to avoid bank reporting requirements.

Mr. Hastert, 73, a longtime Republican leader who served as speaker from 1999 until 2007 and now works as a lobbyist in Washington, was providing money to an unnamed person in order to “compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct” against that person, according to a federal indictment issued by the United States attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.

 
Denny Hastert introducing “The Rock” at the  2000 RNC

The indictment says that Mr. Hastert, who was once a high school teacher and wrestling coach in a small Illinois town, paid $1.7 million to the person from 2010 to 2014. …

In 1999, Mr. Hastert, who was then a six-term congressman from Illinois, was catapulted to the speaker’s post after Newt Gingrich stepped down after a contentious national election marked by the wounds that the House inflicted on itself during the impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton. The Republicans’ first choice to succeed Mr. Gingrich, Robert L. Livingston of Louisiana, gave up the position before he ever assumed it, acknowledging that he had carried on adulterous affairs. Mr. Hastert was chosen because of his reputation among his Republican colleagues as a conciliator.

He left Congress in November 2007.

Seriously, this is a pretty interesting single datapoint-test of Ron’s general suspicions. Hastert’s payoffs didn’t begin until Hastert had left Congress to cash in as a lobbyist. The anti-Unzian interpretation would be that the hush money is for something Hastert only began doing recently.

The Unzian interpretation would be that the NYT published this sentence:

The indictment says that Mr. Hastert, who was once a high school teacher and wrestling coach in a small Illinois town, paid $1.7 million to the person from 2010 to 2014.

to imply that the scandal has some sort of roots from before Hastert’s rise to the Speakership.

Well, we shall see (hopefully).

P.S.: Ron points out in reply that I had published the following blog item 9 years ago:

Foley and Hastert

BY STEVE SAILER • OCTOBER 12, 2006

Is there something I’m not clued into about why all the Mark Foley scandal attention is directed against Speaker of the House Denny Hastert? I don’t recall demands for Speaker Tip O’Neill to resign during the Gerry Studds scandal. Is there something about Hastert that everybody in DC knows, but they won’t tell the rest of us? Yeah, I know he was a high school wrestling coach, but, I mean, really …

I had totally forgotten about this post. In fact, I don’t even know anymore what I was nudge-nudge wink-winking about nine years ago.

By the way, let me point out, however, that, yeah, contrary to the impressions you might get from reading all the avid descriptions of lithe, sweaty high school wrestlers in John Irving’s bestseller The World According to Garp, high school wrestling isn’t very gay at all. It just isn’t.

By the by the way, let this Hastert story be a lesson to everybody: if you did something bad in the past and now are being blackmailed, or, conversely, if you want to blackmail somebody over something he did to you: GET A LAWYER.

Lawyers are expensive, but they know how to legally structure payoffs of hush money so nobody goes to jail. Or even, as in the cases of the individuals demanding hush money from Bill Cosby and David Letterman, so your alleged victim goes to jail, not you.

The legal distinctions between illegal blackmail and the kind of non-disclosure contract that the government blesses — and enforces — are extremely subtle but extremely important. Hire a smart lawyer who can explain them to you until you understand them.

Personally, I’ve never had to hire a lawyer in such a situation. I’ve only brought it up relative to the Cosby and Letterman blackmail cases. I’d like to thank my extremely acute commenters who were able to explain even to me why Cosby and Letterman were able to have their accusers arrested. Unfortunately, I’ve only been able to keep their explanations in my head for about 15 minutes. So, like I said: if you find yourself on either side of such a situation, don’t try to wing it. Get a lawyer.