Thursday, April 28, 2016

Dennis Hastert Gets 15 Months in Prison

Dennis Hastert, the former Speaker of the House, was recently convicted of illegally structuring bank transactions in order to cover up his sexual abuse of teenage athletes while he was a wrestling coach at Yorkville High School. The reason his sentence was only 15 months was because of his "age" and "declining health," according to Judge Thomas M. Durkin.

Before I give my judgement on this scandal, let's look at Mr. Hastert's record in Congress and his opinions on the law. Hastert is from a very conservative small town in Illinois, and attended Wheaton College, an evangelical Protestant liberal arts college. It is very straight-laced--no student is allowed to drink, smoke, gamble, or dance. Hastert attended this college in the 1960s; while other college campuses erupted in protest over the Civil Rights Movement and the War in Vietnam, the only protest that happened--at least in Hastert's senior year--was over the school's "no-beard" rule. 

He started his political career in 1980, entering the Illinois state house. During his years in the Illinois State House, he developed close relationships with various big businesses, in particular the utilities industry. Although he'd been a member of the state teacher's union when taught at Yorkville High, he voted against collective bargaining for most state employees, including firefighters, during his time in the Illinois Legislature. In 1986, he crafted a plan that would change Illinois tax structure in way that would benefit utilities significantly. Critics accused this bill of favoritism and it never advanced past committee. Later that same year, Hastert was elected to the House of Representatives.

Almost immediately upon entering Congress, he developed friendships with numerous businesses and political action committees. He became friends with powerful Congressmen Tom DeLay and Newt Gingrich, and worked behind the scenes gathering votes for their Contract With America in 1994. When Newt Gingrich stepped as Speaker of the House in 1998, it looked like Bob Livingston was going to take his place. However, revelations of his extramarital affairs forced him to resign, and Hastert began lobbing for votes immediately. He became Speaker in 1999.

Hastert has a perfect 100 Rating from the Christian Coalition. He was an ardent supporter of the War on Drugs. During his time as Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert earmarked $24 million in taxpayer dollars to his hometown of Aurora, Illinois. In 2000, he supported the Child Abuse Prevention and Enforcement Act, which sought stronger penalties against child molesters. He was a staunch supporter of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act. He publicly called for legislation that would "put repeat child molesters in jail for the rest of their lives" in 2003. In 2006, Hastert condemned Mark Foley during his sex scandal, and called for his expulsion from the House. He claimed that he only learned about Foley's actions when the scandal was first made public, but there is evidence that suggests that he did know about what Foley was doing months beforehand and did nothing about it.

So Dennis Hastert, who repeatedly advocated harsher punishment for child sex offenders, is getting a lenient punishment for being a child sex offender. We live in such a wonderful world. I'll leave you with a quote from the comments section of this Crooked Timber post from 2004:

We don’t know whether Mr. Hastert likes to have sex with little boys, or whether he likes black boys or latino boys in addition to white boys. We do know he enjoys watching boys roll around on the ground together, and used to give boys instructions as to how to cradle another boy in their arms.
Someone may have documented the full extent of his pedophilia- there may even be a series of films of Mr. Hastert having sexual intercourse with boys- I would stress that at this point we don’t know for sure whether any such videotapes exist or whether Mr. Hastert might have destroyed them.

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