Former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert will plead guilty to charges related to allegations that he attempted to circumvent financial disclosure laws and lied to the FBI in the course of paying $1.7 million to an individual who was threatening to reveal that Hastert, a former Illinois high school teacher, had sexually abused him. The exact details of Hastert’s plea deal have not yet been disclosed, but Politico reported Wednesday that the agreement would involve serving “possibly more than a year” of prison time. A judge scheduled Hastert’s plea appearance for Oct. 28.
The federal indictment against Hastert said only that he had paid an “Invidual A” to cover up “past misconduct” against that person, but subsequent law enforcement leaks indicated that Individual A was a former male student of Hastert’s and that the misconduct was sexual in nature. (It’s believed that Illinois’ statutes of limitations preclude Hastert from being prosecuted for the reported sexual crimes themselves.) A woman named Jolene Reinboldt also came forward in June to allege that her brother, who died in 1995, had been sexually abused by the former congressman as a student.
The apparent admission of guilt by Hastert underlines the almost unbelievable level of public and personal misconduct committed by the U.S. political leaders of the 1990s. Bill Clinton, of course, admitted to giving false deposition testimony (and lying a number of times in public) after being fellated in the Oval Office by a 22-year-old. Hastert took over as speaker from Newt Gingrich, who in 1997 had become the first speaker to be disciplined by the House for unethical behavior (he had claimed tax-exempt charitable status for a college class that was actually a training session for Republican activists and gave false information to investigators looking into the case). Gingrich, during the time that he was leading the move to impeach Clinton, was conducting an affair with the woman who would become his third wife.
Meanwhile, the congressman who led Clinton’s impeachment prosecution, Henry Hyde, was revealed by Salon to have cheated on his wife with a married woman, breaking up the woman’s marriage. And the representative who was initially in line to replace Gingrich as speaker, Bob Livingston, made way for Hastert by resigning from Congress because Hustler magazine was working on story about his own multiple extramarital affairs.
Also, a few years earlier the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee had gone to prison for fraud. And Dennis Hastert, it turns out, was probably worse than all of these guys! Quite a decade we had in the 1990s.