Land Deal Gives Hastert 300% Profit

ABC News | June 16, 2006
By Rhonda Schwartz

Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-IL) realized an estimated $2 million dollar profit last year on an Illinois land deal that included acreage near a future interstate highway Hastert pushed to build.

The land was sold just five months after Hastert inserted a $207 million appropriation bill for the Prairie Parkway highway during a closed-door Congressional budget conference.

The deal, representing a 300 per cent return on investment, was reported in Hastert's financial disclosure form filed this week, although the role of a secret trust set up by Hastert to sell the land was not disclosed.

A spokesman for Hastert, Ron Bonjean, confirmed the details, which were first reported by Bill Allison of the Sunlight Foundation, an on-line political watchdog group. The Speaker's spokesman said land in the Plano, Illinois area is "booming," and the future highway had no impact on the price.

Hastert and partners sold the land to developers who plan a large residential sub-division about five miles from the new highway.

Local citizens fighting the highway project were outraged to learn of the Hastert deal. "I think he clearly has his own personal interest and not the public's by buying and selling land to developers for personal profit, when it has a negative long-range effect on the community," said Jan Strasma, head of community group Citizens Against the Sprawlway.

Hastert's spokesman said that Hastert had been a proponent of the highway for 20 years, and there was nothing improper in the deal.

According to Hastert's disclosure form and county property records, a 69-acre parcel was put into a trust, Little Rock Trust #225, on May 2, 2005.

Two months later, in July 2005, Hastert pushed the highway appropriation bill through a conference committee.

On Aug. 6, 2005 President Bush appeared with Hastert at a ceremony in Illinois to celebrate the new highway's funding.

On Dec. 7, 2005 the trust sold the parcel of land to the developers.

The spokesman said, for tax reasons, Hastert used part of his $2 million profit to buy a 275-acre farm in Wisconsin that Hastert intends to use as a future retirement home.