Monday, June 1, 2015

Michael Kinsley famously said...

...that "The scandal isn't what's illegal, the scandal is what's legal."

Now, while I don't want to minimize whatever "prior misconduct" it was that led Dennis Hastert to pay an unidentified man $3.5 million, consider this piece in Saturday's Times, "After Speakership, Hastert Amassed His Millions Lobbying Former Colleagues" (my emphasis):

J. Dennis Hastert, the longest-serving Republican House speaker in history, was swept from leadership in 2006 on a wave of Republican revulsion over what critics saw as a legislative favor factory he presided over in Congress. That wave deposited him on K Street, a prime address for the capital’s lobbyists, where his influence and good name kept the favors flowing — including into his bank accounts.

A former wrestling coach and high school teacher, Mr. Hastert did not enter Congress as wealthy as some of his colleagues. Yet he was still able to amass a small fortune with land deals, one aided by an earmark he secured for a highway interchange. 

But it was at his own post-Congress lobbying firm and at the professional services firm Dickstein Shapiro that Mr. Hastert swelled his cash flow, working all sides of issues and glad-handing members of Congress for controversial clients.

With a salary of probably $1 million, compensation for serving on boards of directors, speaker’s fees and a book deal, the money was there to pay in cash what law enforcement officials say Mr. Hastert paid, said former Representative Jack Kingston, a Republican who led the Appropriations Committee.

“Yeah, it’s possible he could amass in a 10-year period a nest egg of $5 to $10 million,” he said. “I’m not saying it’s easy, but it’s not that hard.”

And the moral of the story? If you want to get rich, forget Wall Street; go into public "service" instead.

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