The Denny Hastert Bombshell

New of former House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s indictment for violating banking regulations and lying to the FBI had just broken when we were wrapping up yesterday. But there’s not a lot to add this morning other than the obvious mountains of innuendo. He was clearly getting shaken down for millions of dollars by someone close to him toward whom or with whom Hastert had performed some “misconduct.” As a lot of observers have noted this morning, it’s unusual for a victim of extortion to become the target of an indictment, especially before action is taken against the extorter. No telling when we’ll know exactly what this is really about.

Some may wonder how a former high school wrestling teacher acquired the jack he paid out so regularly. Wonder no more (per a report from WaPo’s DeBonis, Kane and Berman):

Hastert’s ability to make such large cash payments probably came from his career as a K Street lobbyist. He entered Congress in 1987 with a net worth of no more than $270,000 and then exited worth somewhere between $4 million and $17 million, according to congressional disclosure documents. Much of his wealth, however, was tied up in real estate holdings.

Since Hastert became a lobbyist, his clients have paid millions of dollars for his services.

Last year, Hastert took the helm of Dickstein’s lobbying practice at a time when it was undergoing major structural changes.

A large group of lobbyists had departed for rival Greenberg Traurig, taking significant business, and Hastert was tapped to help rebuild Dickstein’s lobbying business.

His clients included Peabody Energy, the Secure ID Coalition and Fuels America, according to lobbying records.

Just another rags-to-riches story, I guess, or just another example of how courting the appearance of impropriety has become SOP in both Illinois and Washington.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.