We haven’t heard a peep out of former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) since June, when he appeared in court to be arraigned on criminal charges stemming from his alleged agreement to pay millions in hush money to an individual he reportedly sexually abused. But that doesn’t mean his legal troubles are out of sight and out of mind.
A U.S. district judge on Thursday reopened a civil case alleging Hastert misappropriated public funds from his post-speakership transition office for private business. The civil suit was originally filed in 2013 by a former business associate of Hastert’s, J. David John, and had been dismissed twice previously by the same district judge, Charles Kocoras.
But Kocoras wrote in a new filing that John has established that he told the FBI in 2011 of his “knowledge that Hastert was using federally funded offices, staff, office supplies and vehicles for personal business ventures,” allowing the suit to move forward.
A 2012 investigation by The Chicago Tribune spelled out how employees in Hastert’s Yorkville, Illinois transition office coordinated travel and meetings and conducted research on business ventures the former speaker worked on with John. One employee also accompanied Hastert and John on trips to Southern California to discuss a proposal for a Formula One racetrack. The newspaper investigation was shored up in part by documentation John produced in a separate lawsuit against Wheaton College, where he and Hastert both attended school.
Politico reported last week that the movement in John’s case could be a headache for the team defending Hastert against criminal charges. John’s legal team plans to press for further testimony to support the case, likely from the FBI and Hastert himself, according to Politico.
It’s possible that the two cases are even more closely intertwined. Politico noted that the FBI inquiry that led to Hastert’s indictment began in 2013, around when John first filed his lawsuit. Since John filed the suit as a private party on behalf of the government, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago looked into his case, even though it ultimately declined to join the suit.
John’s attorney, Michael Goldberg, told BuzzFeed News last month that he had no reason to believe that the two cases were related, but said the federal indictment “only serves to enhance our case and is a positive step for our case.”
Hastert’s attorneys did not respond to Politico about the lawsuit being revived.