Monday, October 16, 2006

Reid & Hastert’s Land Deals Don’t Pass the Smell Test

What happens when leading legislators of both parties fail to report their interest in third party corporations and their resulting land deals? Republican Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid both left their corporate interest off their Congressional Ethics reports. Both men are highly educated, Harry received a law degree and Dennis a Masters in Education. One would think both men smart enough to report their holdings accurately, so why didn’t they?

Denny did his deal with the Treasurer of the local Republican Party, making $1.8 million in the process. During this time Speaker Hastert introduced an ear mark funding the Prairie Parkway, a north south road with interchange access not far from the property.

Harry purchased his land from a developer working on a government land swap supported by Senator Reid. After selling it to the unreported corporation, developers again purchased the land netting Harry $1.1 million.

Look at the excuses both elected officials offer for their “oversight”

Reid said he believed the 2001 sale did not alter his ownership of the land but that he agreed to file the amended reports because "I believe in ensuring all facts come to light." (This from an attorney?)

Reid blamed the AP story as the "latest attempt" by Republicans to affect the election. AP reported last week that it learned of the land deal from a former Reid adviser who had concerns about the way the deal was reported to Congress. (Typical politician, sounds rather Hastertish given the Mark Foley debacle, especially as Reid isn't up for re-election)

Hastert denied that he pushed for federal funding for a proposed highway in northeastern Illinois so he and his wife could reap about $1.8 million from land deals near their home in Kendall County. (Did he declare his conflict of interest and not vote for his own earmark? That’s right Congress does not vote on earmark’s, they just slip them in!)

In defending himself, Hastert told The Associated Press the land in question was 5.5 miles from the proposed highway. "So, it has nothing to do with the Prairie Parkway," the Yorkville Republican said. "I owned land and I sold it, like millions of people do every day." (It’s not the land deal, it’s the improper Ethics reporting)

These are America’s leaders? It looks like we need at least two new ones. Are the people of Illinois ready to choose somebody else besides Dancing Denny? Nevadans can’t send Harried Harry packing until 2010, but maybe the Democrats will choose a more elevating leader than an attorney who inadvertently makes clerical errors on minor issues like land ownership.

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