Dennis Hastert

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"Hastert" redirects here. For the Wyoming politician, see John Hastert.
Dennis Hastert
59th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
In office
January 6, 1999 – January 3, 2007
President Bill Clinton
George W. Bush
Preceded by Newt Gingrich
Succeeded by Nancy Pelosi
Republican Chief Deputy Whip of the House of Representatives
In office
January 3, 1995 – January 3, 1999
Whip Tom DeLay
Preceded by Robert Smith Walker
Succeeded by Roy Blunt
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 14th district
In office
January 3, 1987 – November 26, 2007
Preceded by John E. Grotberg
Succeeded by Bill Foster
Member of the Illinois House of Representatives
from the 82nd district
In office
Member of the Illinois House of Representatives
from the 39th district
In office
Personal details
Born John Dennis Hastert
(1942-01-02) January 2, 1942 (age 73)
Aurora, Illinois
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Jean Kahl
Residence Plano, Illinois
Alma mater Wheaton College
Northern Illinois University
Occupation High School Teacher
Religion Methodist

John Dennis "Denny" Hastert (/ˈhæstərt/; born January 2, 1942) is an American politician, lobbyist and member of the Republican Party who was the 59th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, serving from 1999 to 2007. He represented Illinois's 14th congressional district for twenty years, 1987 to 2007.

He is the longest-serving Republican Speaker in history. Hastert was reelected to an eleventh term in Congress in the 2006 general election, however, the Republican Party lost its majority in the House and Hastert did not seek a leadership position in the 110th Congress.[1]

Early life[edit]

Hastert was born in Aurora, Illinois, the eldest of three sons of Naomi (née Nussle) and Jack Hastert, and grew up in Oswego, Illinois. His father was of Luxembourgish and Norwegian descent and his mother was of German ancestry.[2] As a young man he worked in the Plainfield, Illinois, family restaurant "The Clock Tower" as a fry cook.[3] He briefly attended North Central College but graduated from Wheaton College, Illinois, in 1964, and earned a master's degree in History of Philosophy from Northern Illinois University, in 1967. Although Hastert was high school "football and wrestling star" and a wrestler at Wheaton College in the 1960s, he was later injured, and as a result of these claims he successfully sought a deferment from military service in Vietnam.[4] After a stint teaching English in Osaka, Japan,[5] he moved to Yorkville in 1964, 55 miles (89 km) west of Chicago, and took a job as a sociology, economics, and speech teacher at Yorkville High School from 1964 to 1980. He also coached wrestling and football, leading the wrestling team to a state title in 1976. His family owns the locally famous fried chicken restaurant, "The White Fence Farm," in Bolingbrook, Ill.

Illinois House of Representatives[edit]

In 1980, he was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives and served three terms, becoming the ranking Republican on the Appropriations Committee.

Election to Congress and early congressional career[edit]

In January, 1986, John Grotberg, the Congressman from Illinois's 14th congressional district, was undergoing cancer treatment at NIH and experienced a coma that lasted five weeks. Grotberg started rehabilitation as he came out of the coma, but by June was still not well enough to run for office and withdrew his name from the ballot. (He died on November 15). As this was an unprecedented situation, the twelve county chairmen would seek legal guidance on the correct procedure to choose his successor.

WLBK/DeKalb's Program Director Mark Powell, 26, waged a protest campaign on local radio complaining that the GOP leadership planned to "hand pick" Hastert as successor without popular approval, and that Hastert did not live in the congressional district until the nomination.

Hastert was nominated by the Republican congressional district convention held at the Illinois Math and Science Academy in Aurora, Illinois. This convention was attended by all precinct committee members from within the represented district. Each was assigned a weighted vote based upon the total number of Republican ballots cast in their respective precincts in the most recent primary election. Dr. Richard Verbic, Mayor of Elgin, Illinois, was the only other candidate to be nominated that day. (Mayor Verbic had been defeated by Grotberg in the 1984 GOP primary.)

After long hours of voting, it became clear that the majority of votes were going toward Hastert. A motion was made to suspend voting and to nominate Hastert. The convention acclaimed Denny Hastert its nominee.

The nomination was not without controversy. Hastert's detractors complained that Grotberg's condition had been distorted and Mayor Verbic had been smeared for his age. This controversy dogged Hastert through the general election, which would be his closest race for Congress. Hastert faced Democrat Mary Lou Kearns, the coroner of Kane County. Hastert ran a typical GOP campaign in a strongly Republican district and received 52 percent of the vote.

After that, he never faced another election nearly that close, especially after redistricting in the 1990s made the district even more Republican.

During his first twelve years in Congress, Hastert generally kept a low profile. However, he worked closely with Illinois Republican leaders, especially Minority Leader Robert Michel. After the Republicans took control of the House in 1994, Hastert was named Chief Deputy Whip, the highest appointed position in the House Republican caucus. In this position, he was chief vote-counter for then-Majority Whip Tom DeLay.

Speaker of the House[edit]

Hastert as Speaker during the 108th House of Representatives.

Election as Speaker[edit]

In the aftermath of the 1998 midterm elections, House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia stood down for the Speakership and declined to take his seat for an 11th term. The initial Republican prospect for Gingrich's replacement was Bob Livingston of Louisiana, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, who was unanimously chosen as the Republican candidate for Speaker—and de facto Speaker-elect. However, soon thereafter, Hustler magazine detailed sexual affairs Livingston had in the past while seemingly hypocritically attacking President Bill Clinton for the Monica Lewinsky scandal; Livingston announced he wouldn't seek the Speakership and resigned from Congress, calling on Clinton to follow his lead and resign as well.

With Livingston's departure, the leading candidates for Speaker appeared to be DeLay and House Majority Leader Dick Armey, both of Texas. However, Armey had just fended off a bruising challenge to his majority leader's post from Steve Largent of Oklahoma.

This seemed to open the door for DeLay. However, DeLay was a controversial figure and felt that he would be "too nuclear" to lead a closely divided House.[6] The Republican caucus then turned to Hastert as a compromise candidate. He had very good relationships with moderate and conservative Republicans, as well as Democrats. Hastert was then unanimously elected as the Republican candidate for Speaker, all but assuring his formal election as Speaker on January 6, 1999.

Tenure as speaker[edit]

In accepting the position, Hastert broke with tradition by delivering his acceptance speech from the floor, and by allowing House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt of Missouri to preside briefly. Hastert pledged to work for bipartisanship, saying: "Solutions to problems cannot be found in a pool of bitterness. They can be found in an environment in which we trust one another's word; where we generate heat and passion, but where we recognize that each member is equally important to our overall mission of improving the life of the American people." In November 2004, however, Hastert instituted his "majority of the majority" policy, allowing the House to vote only on bills supported by the majority of its Republican members.[7] His policy agenda focused on taxes, education, Social Security, Medicare, and national defense.

Although by tradition, Hastert was the leader of the House Republicans, he adopted a much lower profile in the media than conventional wisdom would suggest for a Speaker. This led to accusations that he was only a figurehead for DeLay.[8] Still, in the months after the September 11 attacks, he met regularly with President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, the two Senate leaders and the House minority leader to shape the national response.

President of the United States George W. Bush's 2003 State of the Union address. Over the President's right shoulder is Dick Cheney; over his left is Hastert.

As Speaker, Hastert traditionally did not serve on any committee. He usually did not participate in debate (though he had the right to do so) and almost never voted on the floor.

Hastert has been a prominent advocate of the FairTax proposal to replace the income tax with a national sales tax. He has been a strong supporter of all of the Bush administration's foreign and domestic policies.

On October 27, 2005, Hastert became the first Speaker of the House to author a blog on his website called, the "Speaker's Journal."[9] In his first post, he wrote, "This is Denny Hastert and welcome to my blog. This is new to me. I can’t say I’m much of a techie. I guess you could say my office is teaching the old guy new tricks. But I’m excited. This is the future. And it is a new way for us to get our message out."[10]

On June 1, 2006, Hastert became the longest-serving Republican Speaker of the House in history, surpassing the record previously held by fellow Illinoisan Joe Cannon, who held the post from November 1903 to March 1911.

Controversy as Speaker[edit]

A September 2005 article Vanity Fair revealed that during her work, former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds had heard Turkish wiretap targets boast of covert relations with Hastert. The article states, "the targets reportedly discussed giving Hastert tens of thousands of dollars in surreptitious payments in exchange for political favors and information."[11] A spokesman for Hastert later denied the claims, relating them to the Jennifer Aniston-Brad Pitt breakup.[12] Following his Congressional career, Hastert received a $35,000 per month contract lobbying on behalf of Turkey.[13]

In 2009 conservative journalist John Fund argued that Hastert deserved some blame for perceived fiscal excesses in the DeLay era, connecting Hastert to a line of Illinois Republicans such as William Cellini and Peter Fitzgerald who he said supported pork-barrel spending.[14]

Armenian Genocide[edit]

In 2000 Hastert announced he would support an Armenian Genocide resolution. Analysts noted that at the time there was a tight congressional race in California, in which the large Armenian community might be important in favor of the Republican incumbent.

The resolution, vehemently opposed by Turkey, had passed the Human Rights Subcommittee of the House and the International Relations Committee but Hastert, although first supporting it, withdrew the resolution on the eve of the full House vote. He explained this by saying that he had received a letter from Bill Clinton asking him to withdraw it, because it would harm U.S. interests. Even though there is no evidence that a payment was made, an official at the Turkish Consulate is said to have claimed in one recording, that was translated by Sibel Edmonds, that the price for Hastert to withdraw the Armenian Genocide resolution would have been at least $500,000.[11][15]

Post-Speakership career[edit]

Official portrait as Speaker

Hastert was reelected to his seat by a margin of 59.75 percent vs. 40.25 percent in the 2006 election, but that year the Republicans lost control in both Senate and the House, and soon after, Hastert announced he would not run for the post of Minority leader. He had long made it known that the 2007–09 term (110th Congress) would be his last.[1] On June 1, 2007, State Senator Chris Lauzen declared his intention to seek the Republican nomination from Hastert's district.[16] On July 2007, three-time statewide candidate Jim Oberweis also declared his intention to seek the Republican nomination from Hastert's district. The next month, Geneva mayor Kevin Burns became the third Republican candidate in the race to succeed Hastert.[17]

On Aug. 10, 2007, Hastert's office sent letters to his supporters stating that he would announce whether he would be running for another term as congressman of the 14th district. The press conference was set to take place at the Kendall County Courthouse in Yorkville, Illinois on August 17 at 10 am According to sources, Hastert usually announced his intention to run by sending out a press release. On August 14, 2007, a blog[18] reported that Hastert was planning to retire from politics at the end of his term.[19]

On October 17, 2007, the political newspaper Roll Call announced that Hastert would resign from the House before the end of 2007.[20] He gave a farewell speech on the House Floor on November 15, 2007, which was followed by remarks from Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Finally, on November 26, 2007, Hastert submitted his resignation, effective at 11:59 pm that day, to Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, explaining that the timing allowed the governor to set the primary for the special election to fill out the remainder of his term on February 5, 2008, the same day as the primary for the November general election. Although Hastert had scheduled his resignation to permit adequate time to have his position filled by special ballot on the day of the regular Illinois primary on February 5,[21] ultimately, the special election was held on March 8, 2008 and the Democratic candidate, Bill Foster, prevailed over the Republican candidate, Jim Oberweis.

In 2012, a Chicago Tribune investigation alleged that Hastert had used his taxpayer-funded office to conduct private business. Federal law allows former House speakers to maintain a government-financed office for up to five years, but they are not permitted to use the office for financial gain.[22]

Electoral history[edit]

Illinois House of Representatives: 39th district[edit]

  • 1980 election (top three candidates elected)
    • Suzanne L. Deuchler (R), 35%
    • Dennis Hastert (R), 29%
    • Lawrence Murphy (D), 22%
    • Dwain Givens (D), 14%

Illinois House of Representatives: 82nd district[edit]

  • 1982 election
    • Dennis Hastert (R), 68%
    • James E. McCauley (D), 32%
  • 1984 election
    • Dennis Hastert (R) (inc.), 100%

U.S. House of Representatives: Illinois's 14th district[edit]

  • 1986 election
    • Dennis Hastert (R), 52%
    • Mary Lou Kearns (D), 48%
  • 1988 election
    • Dennis Hastert (R) (inc.), 74%
    • Stephen Youhanaie (D), 26%
  • 1990 election
    • Dennis Hastert (R) (inc.), 67%
    • Donald Westphal (D), 33%
  • 1992 election
    • Dennis Hastert (R) (inc.), 67%
    • Jonathan Reich (D), 33%
    • Yvonne Dinwiddle (write-in), 0%
  • 1994 election
    • Dennis Hastert (R) (inc.), 76%
    • Steve Denari (D), 26%
  • 1996 election
    • Dennis Hastert (R) (inc.), 64%
    • Doug Mains (D), 36%
  • 1998 election
    • Dennis Hastert (R) (inc.), 70%
    • Robert A. Cozzi, Jr. (D), 30%
  • 2000 election
    • Dennis Hastert (R) (inc.), 74%
    • Vernon DelJohnson (D), 26%
  • 2002 election
    • Dennis Hastert (R) (inc.), 74%
    • Lawrence Quick (D), 26%
  • 2004 election
    • Dennis Hastert (R) (inc.), 69%
    • Ruben Zamora (D), 31%
  • 2006 election
    • Dennis Hastert (R) (inc.), 60%
    • Jonathan Laesch (D), 40%


Hastert's oldest son, Joshua, is a lobbyist for the firm PodestaMattoon.[23] He has lobbied for clients ranging from Amgen, a biotech company, to Lockheed Martin, a defense contractor, provoking criticism from Congress Watch: "There definitely should be restrictions [on family members registering as lobbyists] ... This is family members cashing in on connections ... [and it] is an ideal opportunity for special interest groups to exploit family relationships for personal gain." Joshua rejoined that he does not lobby House Republican leaders.[24]

His son Ethan ran in 2010 as a Republican for his father's old seat, Illinois' 14th Congressional District, but in the February 2 primary was defeated by Illinois State Senator Randy Hultgren.[25][26] In 2011, Ethan won a seat on the village board of Elburn, IL.[27]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b New York Times
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ Washington Post,
  4. ^ "Hastert Steps Up to Leading Role". The Washington Post. January 5, 1999. 
  5. ^ アメリカ新議会の読み方、親日、反日の区分とは?:イザ!
  6. ^ "CBS News – Tenacious Tom DeLay Has Had Wild Ride". [dead link]
  7. ^ Babington, Charles (November 27, 2004). "Hastert Launches a Partisan Policy". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 1, 2010. 
  8. ^ Grunwald, Michael; VandeHei, Jim (October 16, 2006). "Hastert's Team Mentality to Be Tested as Foley Scandal Unfolds". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 15, 2012. 
  9. ^ Speaker of the House at the Wayback Machine (archived February 20, 2006)
  10. ^ Speaker of the House :: Speaker's Journal :: Welcome to My Blog at the Wayback Machine (archived February 16, 2006)
  11. ^ a b Rose, David. "An Inconvenient Patriot." Vanity Fair. September 2005.
  12. ^ 33:02 to 33:25. Kill the Messenger. SBS Australia, 2007. Documentary.
  13. ^ Hastert contracted to lobby for Turkey
  14. ^ Fund, John H. (March 2009). "LaHood's Neighborhood". The American Spectator (Arlington, Virginia): 60–61. 
  15. ^ Did Speaker Hastert Accept Turkish Bribes to Deny Armenian Genocide and Approve Weapons Sales?. Democracy Now. August 10, 2005.
  16. ^ Lauzen eyes Congress seat-Aurora Republican forming committee to explore a run in 14th District Andre Salles, The Beacon News. June 1, 2007. Retrieved June 1, 2007
  17. ^ Burns joins race; campaign kickoff today Paul Dailing, Kane County Chronicle. August 18, 2007. Retrieved December 4, 2007 p
  18. ^ news outlets
  19. ^ Sun times
  20. ^ Hastert Likely to Announce Resignation
  21. ^ Archived December 1, 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ Skiba, Katherine and Todd Lighty "Hastert uses government office for private business." Chicago Tribune. November 13, 2012.,0,72946.story
  23. ^ Webpage of PodestaMatton for Josh Hastert, accessed October 2, 2006 Archived September 7, 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ Michael Kranish, "", Boston Globe, January 28, 2006
  25. ^ Eye on 2010 – Illinois
  26. ^ Hultgren Defeats Hastert in 14th Race
  27. ^ The Associated Press (2011-04-06). "Son of former U.S. House Speaker Hastert wins village board race". The State Journal-Register. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
John E. Grotberg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 14th congressional district

January 6, 1987 – November 26, 2007
Succeeded by
Bill Foster
Political offices
Preceded by
Newt Gingrich
Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives
Succeeded by
Nancy Pelosi
Party political offices
Preceded by
Robert Smith Walker
Chief Deputy Republican Whip
Succeeded by
Roy Blunt