WASHINGTON -- Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who was indicted Thursday by federal authorities on charges of improper bank transactions, was paying millions to conceal long-ago sexual misconduct, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday. The paper, citing two federal law enforcement sources, reported that the payments starting in 2010 were to a man and “it was [to cover up] sex.”
Hastert, a 73-year-old Republican from Illinois, was charged by federal prosecutors for a practice known as "structuring" -- withdrawing money in increments just below the $10,000 threshold that requires the bank to signal federal authorities. The indictment charged that Hastert paid a total of $3.5 million to an unidentified individual to try to cover up “past misconduct.”
The charging documents did not indicate what the misdeeds were, but they did say they occurred before Hastert entered public office and were not part of public corruption or misuse of his public office. In speaking with the LA Times, officials were more forthcoming, saying the payments concerned activities that occurred while Hastert was a teacher and wrestling coach at a Yorkville, Ill., high school from 1965 to 1981. He has been married for 42 years and has two sons.
The U.S. attorney considered filing additional charges against Hastert in relation to the misdeeds and potentially involving several victims, BuzzFeed reported. Officials considered including a reference to a second unnamed person in the indictment as a victim, but did not, the website reported.
Hastert was also charged with lying to the FBI when interviewed about why he was withdrawing the large sums of money. According to the indictment, Hastert told officials that he withdrew the money because he didn’t trust the banks. "Yeah ... I kept the cash," he told the FBI. "That's what I'm doing."
Most of Washington was shocked by the charges when they were filed on Thursday. Hastert was considered straight-laced during his time in office. The lack of details in the initial reports left much of the city’s political class raptured in curiosity about what misdeeds Hastert could have been trying to conceal. The Yorkville schools told the Chicago Tribune they had no knowledge of any complaint against him.
Hastert served as speaker from 1999 (succeeding Newt Gingrich) until 2007, when the Democrats under Nancy Pelosi took control of the chamber. He resigned his seat a few months later. Hastert represented the 14th District in Illinois from 1987 until he left office. He has worked as a lobbyist since then.