Dennis Hastert’s indictment offers clues into why he protected Republican Mark Foley in sexual misconduct scandal
Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert was indicted on Thursday “on charges that he structured bank withdrawals to avoid federal reporting requirements and later lied about it to the FBI.”
The initial indictment soon led to news that Hastert had apparently paid a high school student to conceal sexual misconduct at a high school that the former speaker taught at. Recall that there were allegations of “prior misdeeds” by Hastert when he was still in power, with the Department of Justice referring to a second accuser; what appears to be a kid Hastert allegedly had sex with called him during a 2014 C-SPAN appearance.
This immediately brings to mind the scandal with former Florida Congressman Mike Foley (R), who was forced to resign in 2006 after news came to light that he had engaged in inappropriate courting of young men who worked as pages.
At the time, AlterNet Senior Writer Max Blumenthal speculated on Hastert’s involvement in covering up sexual abuse. Writing in The Nation, Blumenthal interviewed the Reverend Don Wildmon of the American Family Association, who said he had received a list of closeted gay GOP Hill staffers from some gay rights activists. Wildmon wanted congressional Republicans to fire these staffers, saying that it represented “subversive activity” to even have them.
One thing Wildmon said exposing and firing the staffers would do is clear Hastert of involvement in covering up Foley’s behavior. It had long been rumored that Hastert was aware of Foley’s activities but had chosen to take no action. As Blumenthal argued, the clique of gay staffers Wildmon mentioned had come under scrutiny before:
While Hastert has never suggested his staffers were part of any gay Republican “clique,” openly gay Hill staffers who had contact with Hastert’s staff and his Congressional allies have become subjects of a House Ethics Committee and FBI investigation into Foleygate. One of the gay staffers, Kirk Fordham, former chief of staff to Foley, was serving as Reynolds’s chief of staff when the news broke of Foley’s activities. Another, Jeff Trandahl, served as House Clerk from 1999 to 2005 and oversaw the page program.
Hastert’s chief of staff, Scott Palmer, has confirmed he was informed by Fordham of Foley’s lurid IMs in 2005. Fordham, however, alleges that Palmer knew of Foley’s behavior much earlier than 2005. Trandahl, for his part, was presented with Foley’s IMs in 2003 and, together with Illinois Republican Representative John Shimkus, told Foley to break contact with the teen.
The latest scandal explains one reason Hastert would drag his feet on holding Foley accountable: Hastert had his own dark secret involving both sexual misconduct and homosexuality. This is particularly ironic due to his own crusade against Bill Clinton’s affair against Monica Lewisky, and vote for impeachment. And David Sirota notes that Hastert promoted himself as a crusader against sexual abuse of children.