Anyone out there remember the Dennis Hastert scandal?
Hastert, a former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives (1999-2007), was indicted in late May and pleaded not guilty on June 9 to charges of “structuring” cash withdrawals (taking money out of a bank the wrong way) and lying to federal investigators about what he did with the money.
And here is an example of a big story being swallowed by a small one.
The mystery in the Hastert scandal is not about the weak federal charges against him, but why a larger crime has gone missing.
The national press, barely able to control its excitement, reported that Hastert sent a boatload of cash to someone
(identified only as Individual A) not to reveal that, long ago, Hastert had sexually abused Individual A. Allegedly, of course.
To the media, this story is about money. Like many other influential members of Congress, Hastert found a lucrative career in lobbying after he left the Capitol in 2007. Allegedly to keep Individual A quiet, he handed over $1.7 million in the last four years – about half the total price for Individual A’s silence.
Rampant speculation chewed on whether Hastert’s bank withdrawals were much of a crime at all, and whether hush money to cover wrongdoing 40 or 50 years ago is something to get crazy about, given an evanescent statute of limitations. And how Hastert, once one of the most powerful men in the country, once a beloved high school teacher and coach could do such a thing.
All this skips the larger question: Why hasn’t Individual A been charged with blackmail?
Hastert’s acts (alleged) are one thing. But for this big dance to finish on a clear note, we must remember that it takes two to tango. Or is blackmail no longer a crime? We have a victim. What of the perp?
– JOHN MARSHALL