Former Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, was indicted yesterday, May 28, 2015 for not reporting to the government money he withdrew from his own bank accounts and lying to the FBI. The federal government has a rule that if one makes cash deposits or cash withdrawals to systematically avoid reporting transactions of $10,000 or more, then that person is breaking federal law. Allegedly, the money was to pay off an extortionist who had dirt on him.
This is what we know as of this morning: Dennis Hastert was a member of the U.S. House and then became a well-paid lobbyist. In 2010, someone approached Hastert with information that could be damaging to him. The two agreed for Hastert to pay that person $3.5 million over a period of time for that information not to be revealed. We do not know if the information is of any criminal activity Hastert may have committed in the past, or if is simply something of an embarrassing nature. Either way, the information was strong enough that Hastert was willing to pay millions of dollars for that information to be kept private. The FBI and the IRS began investigating Hastert when it was alerted he was withdrawing large amounts of cash from his different bank accounts and then he began to withdrawal amounts just under the $10,000 federal reporting limit.
The reporting limit was initially designed to thwart drug dealers’ money laundering operations, which has not been successful in the War on Drugs. Instead, the law has been used nefariously by the federal government to arrest or seize the money of otherwise normal Americans and business people. This column has offered many stories of the IRS seizing the bank accounts or arresting business people who are in legitimate cash businesses and are not involved in any illegal activity.
While Hastert was in Congress, he was no friend of libertarians; however, it is hard to understand why so many libertarians are so gleeful of the indictment when the grounds for the indictment are anti-libertarian. Libertarians believe one should be able to do with their money as they choose without having to report any of that activity to any government authority. Unfortunately, the federal government has not revealed who the extortionist is or what dirt the extortionist has on Hastert to cause Hastert to withdrawal an agreed upon $3.5 million over a period of time. Assuming Hastert’s dastardly deeds he is hiding would be trivial in a libertarian’s eyes, then libertarians should not be dancing on Hastert’s ‘grave” simply because they disagree with his politics. Libertarians should be questioning why the government did not come to Hastert’s aid for the blackmail scheme.
The heavy hand of the federal government is using an anti-libertarian, anti-victim law to indict Hastert. There is still much to unravel as the case moves forward and it is still too early for anyone come to full conclusions until all the facts come to light.