May 29, 2005

Inside Hastert Inc.

The Chicago Tribune and the Washington Post profile how House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) political machine works.


Hastert's core advisers reflect the personality and style of a speaker
largely content to work outside the public eye. Though Hastert now has been
speaker nearly twice as long as Georgia's Newt Gingrich, he commands nothing
close to the same public recognition.

Likewise, Hastert's inner circle is filled with understated, unassuming men
who would rather listen than talk, stepping back toward the walls rather than
jostling for a seat at the head of the table. [...]

It is not difficult for a speaker of the House, of any party, to raise money,
and Hastert's main campaign funds have taken in about $17.9 million since his
elevation in 1999, slightly more than DeLay over the same period.

But because the speaker also is in a relatively safe seat, he gives much of
the money that he raises to other Republican candidates or the national party
campaign committees.

Hastert Directs Millions to Birthplace

Hastert has earmarked $24 million in grants for Aurora-based nonprofit groups
since becoming speaker in 1999, using an obscure section of the big federal
spending bills passed each year. [...]

Hastert's office is one of those that has taken full advantage of this
opportunity, an analysis of recent spending legislation shows. He has used
earmarks to get $3.2 million for a National Guard armory in Aurora and $7.5
million for a library at Judson College in Elgin.

The funds for Judson College, which describes itself as an evangelical
Christian school, were tucked into a section of the Department of Energy's
appropriation for "biological and energy research." A Hastert news release
explained that the library would be a "green" structure that would "cut down on
fossil fuel costs and make the most of alternative natural resources." [...]

The account has brought a steady stream of taxpayer dollars back to Aurora, a
rapidly growing community of 150,000. Beginning in 2000, it has contained 10
earmarks for Aurora nonprofits, including about $540,000 in last fall's spending
bill for the Visiting Nurses Association of Aurora.

Aurora's $24 million accounts for about 1.7 percent of the $1.4 billion
earmarked in the health resources account through 2004. An equal division of the
funds among all 435 House districts would have given each about $3.2 million.

In addition to the money for Aurora University and Rush-Copley Medical
Center, there was $3.4 million to purchase movable equipment for a surgical
expansion at Provena Mercy Medical Center, where Hastert aide Lulu Blacksmith
was manager of community outreach until three years ago [...]

Now Provena is seeking $1.5 million for a mental health initiative. But Meyer
said even when your representative is the most powerful member of the House,
there are no guarantees. "It's like Yogi Berra said, you don't have it until you
have it."

There is every sign that Hastert's door remains open to Aurora. On May 9, the
speaker sponsored a "grant writing workshop" in the city, aimed at "helping area
not-for-profit and other organizations [get] better access to federal

An equal division of 1.4 billion dollars of health recourses money for each of the 435 House districts will be about 3.2 million each. Dennis Hastert district cut of the 1.4 billion is 24 million, which leaves other House districts below their 3.2 million dollars of earmarks. The Republican Speaker knows how to bring the pork back home.

The two main people behind J. Dennis Hastert political machine is Dan Mattoon, the lobbyist, ....

In his first campaign for the Illinois legislature nearly a quarter-century
ago, Dennis Hastert had a problem. He had plenty of campaign posters, but no
wooden stakes to make yard signs.

His friend Dan Mattoon had the solution. Mattoon knew where former Rep. Tom
Corcoran kept hundreds of wooden stakes and, as lore has it, he took them for
Hastert without bothering to tell Corcoran.

Since that time, Mattoon, 52, now one of Washington's most powerful
lobbyists, and Hastert (R-Ill.), 63, speaker of the House of Representatives,
have been joined like a poster nailed to a stake.

Mattoon plays a vital role in the political corporation that is Hastert Inc.,
a powerful and flourishing enterprise run by a select few that has in its
charter everything from preserving a Republican majority in Congress to Social
Security changes to funding a bridge in the Fox River Valley.

He has served as an unofficial emissary of the speaker to other members or
business interests while at the same time balancing the needs of his clients,
which include telecommunications and pharmaceutical companies with aggressive
legislative ambitions.

His lobbying firm, PodestaMattoon, hired Hastert's son, Joshua, who had run a
DeKalb music store and recording label called Seven Dead Arson, to join the
high-powered practice barely a year after Joshua moved to Washington to make a
go at lobbying. Mattoon and his wife, Jane, also are listed as officers for two
of Hastert's political funds.

and Scott B. Palmer the chief of staff.

When Scott B. Palmer received an honorary degree in 2002 from his alma mater,
Aurora University in Illinois, he urged the graduating class to "give back to
our university, to our community and to our country."

As chief of staff to House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), Palmer runs a
congressional office that has been able to do just that for Aurora, the
birthplace of his boss and the largest city in his boss's home district. [..]

Palmer, Hastert's chief of staff, is by all accounts the speaker's closest
adviser. He has served in his post since 1987, except for a stint from 1995 to
1999 as deputy chief of staff to then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.). He
shares a Southwest Washington townhouse with Hastert. In addition to receiving a
House salary of $144,000, two campaign funds associated with Hastert paid Palmer
$23,204 in consulting fees in 2003, according to his financial disclosure

At Aurora University, Palmer won praise as an undergraduate actor and history
scholar. He graduated in 1972 but stayed on to get a business degree and serve
as registrar and director of public information. Palmer left in 1984 to become
marketing director of a bank and a part-time political consultant.

Dennis Hastert is my Representative in Congress, I voted against him 2000, 2002 and 2004. I will vote against him in any future elections. He might be good pork money wises for the district, but this House leadership is bad for Whole USA.


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