Why Was Hastert Targeted?

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

A political opponent of former House Speaker Dennis Hastert notes a few small details that seem to have been missing from the headlines lately. The gist of the news coverage is that Hastert is under fire for paying hush money to a former student he is rumored to have sexually abused. Whatever the truth behind these rumors, Bill Press notes a few disturbing facts about the investigative and judicial proceedings. Among them, they don't seem to have been motivated in the first place by these alleged misdeeds:

[I]f that student still felt harmed, so many years later, why didn't he go to the police instead of going to Hastert and hitting him up for hush money? And why hasn't he been charged with extortion?

Remember, Hastert hasn't been charged with sexual abuse. He's been charged with "structuring" -- taking out multiple bank withdrawals to avoid federal reporting requirements on large transactions -- and then lying to the FBI about it. Ironically, the law against structuring is part of the Patriot Act, which Hastert helped get through Congress.

But even that begs the question: As long as it's his own money -- and nobody's accused Hastert of stealing -- why's it any business of the FBI whether he leaves it in the bank or not?

In an interview, James E. Barz, former assistant U.S. attorney in Chicago, where the Hastert charges were filed, told me the "structuring" statute was designed for cases involving drug dealers or terrorism suspects. If they couldn't be caught committing the actual crime, prosecutors could nab them for trading in large sums of mystery money. But, says Barz, if it's a case of somebody taking his or her own money out of the bank to settle a private civil case, "one could legitimately question: Where's the federal crime?"

"At this point," Barz added, "we don't know the full story, but it could be after being contacted by the bank about larger withdrawals, Hastert started withdrawing smaller sums, not to hide criminal activity from the government but to hide it from his family, which wouldn't be criminal." [bold added]
The very real possibility that a non-crime is being used or can be used so easily to target someone for his political views should give anyone pause, regardless of his political philosophy or the truth of the other accusations against Dennis Hastert.

-- CAV

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