Last week, we noted House Speaker Dennis Hastert's (R-IL) sweet real estate deal - a deal that, as many TPM readers pointed out, Tammany Hall pol George Washington Plunkitt would have dismissed as " honest graft." "I seen my opportunities and I took 'em," Hastert might say.
Simply put, Hastert bought up a chunk of farmland, pushed to fund a highway near the area, and then cashed out three months after the funding was secured. An age-old scam.
Only in this day and age, Hastert won't own up to it. His spokesman is laughably arguing that the highway is "too far away [from the land] to have an effect."
This is remote farmland that will now be about five miles from a major highway. To be generous, that's a ten minute drive. I'm no expert, but it seems to me (born and raised in North Atlanta) a truism of suburban real estate that accessibility to an interstate or major road affects land value. The area does by all accounts seem to be experiencing a real estate boom (it's apparently the second fastest growing county in the U.S.), but it's absurd to argue that the effect of the highway on the property's value is negligible. What Hastert's flack is saying basically amounts to arguing that location doesn't have an effect on real estate values. Plunkitt would never have insulted his public with such a line.
And according to yesterday's Chicago Tribune, there's even more honest graft coming Denny's way. For tax reasons, Hastert and his business partners used the profits from the sale to buy more property -- property "just south" of the land they just sold. So in about a year, Hastert will get to cash in again on land that's appreciated because of his highway.
Maybe by then Hastert will have a better set of talking points.