Hastert Enriching Self Through Earmarks
This is a great way to make some money. You're Dennis Hastert. You and some partners buy up some property west of Chicago. Then you get $200 million in federal funds to help bring a highway within 5 miles of the property. Suddenly, with the new infrastructure coming in, a developer wants to buy your property and build 1,500 homes on it. So you and your partners sell, with much of the property going for over three times what you paid for it not three years ago. All told, in less than three years, you personally make $1.5 million from the deal.
Nothing wrong there. Here's the defense:
Hastert press secretary Ron Bonjean said it is wrong to think that the speaker's backing of the parkway could positively affect his property investments because they are 5 miles from the proposed path of the highway. "It's too far away to have an effect," Bonjean said, adding, "The speaker has bought land like every American has a right to. . . . He is not benefiting from the parkway."
That makes perfect sense. If you are a moron. As the article notes, people don't want to live next to a highway, but they do like to live close to it. Having a major expressway 5 miles away, instead of 45 miles, makes land more valuable. There is plenty of land in Murrietta and Temecula, CA that is more than 5 miles from Interstate 15, but is still plenty more valuable because of the link it provies to San Diego and Orange Counties. The same is true in this instance.
I don't doubt Hastert would have probably tried to earmark the funds even if he didn't own the land. And he may have purchased the land even if he didn't have the pull to earmark the funds. But you have to be completely clueless or outrageously arrogant to think it's OK to do both.
Update: Welcome Porkbusters! Please feel free to browse some of our more recent coverage of pork.
- Senator Glenn McConnell and his federally funded pet confederate submarine.
- Barbara Boxer attacking Coburn (“I don’t know where the heart is. I don’t know where the soul is. I don’t know where the common sense is.”) over an $11 million levy repair earmark CA legislators deemed imperative to saving homes. All while California was trying to figure out how to spend a multi billion dollar surplus and is working on a bond measure which includes $4 billion in levy repair. See here.
- Northrop Grumnan’s $500 billion handout for “business disruption” from Katrina.
And for those with an appetite for hardier corruption, you can read about the Rep. Jefferson case. Legal coverage here and here. Commentary here and here.