Former Speaker Hastert Charged With Lying to FBI

According to the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, former House speaker and Illinois Republican Dennis Hastert has been charged with evading currency transaction reporting requirements and making false statements to the FBI.

Hastert has been charged with "structuring the withdrawal of $952,000 in cash in order to evade the requirement that banks report cash transactions over $10,000, and lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about his withdrawals."

According to the indictments, the withdrawals were in order to provide an unidentified individual with $3.5 million "in order to compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct." The indictments did not identify what that misconduct was or to whom the money was paid.

If convicted on both counts, Hastert could get 10 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

Hastert was a deregulatory Republican who was once the ranking member on the House Energy & Commerce Committee, which oversees communications issues. He retired in 2007.

As speaker back in 2006, Hastert threatened to sue ABC for defamation and libel over an investigative report by Brian Ross involving a federal probe of lobbyist Jack Abramoff. That same year Hastert also blamed ABC (and "Democratic operatives") for helping "blow up" another scandal story (Ross again) about the emails (allegedly sexual advances to congressional pages) that torpedoed the career of Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.).

Ross and the rest of ABC News' investigative team won the 2007 Online News Association's award for investigative journalism by a major news organization for breaking and continuing reporting on the Foley congressional-page scandal story.

Hastert had called it a "coincidence" that Abramoff held a fund-raiser for Hastert the same week the congressman sent a letter to the Secretary of Interior that benefitted an Abramoff client. Ross has been careful to report that Hastert, according to federal law enforcement sources, was "in the mix" of legislators being looked at as part of the probe. But Ross did not say Hastert was under investigation or the target of an investigation.

The same need not have been said this time around.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.