Breaking: Speaker Hastert Under Investigation By the FBI Over Abramoff Ties

ABC News reports:

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert, is under investigation by the FBI, which is seeking to determine his role in an ongoing public corruption probe into members of Congress, ABC News has learned from high level official sources.

Federal officials say the information implicating Hastert was developed from convicted lobbyists who are now cooperating with the government.

Part of the investigation involves a letter Hastert wrote three years ago, urging the Secretary of the Interior to block a casino on an Indian reservation that would have competed with other tribes.

ABC indicates that the investigation of Hastert is an extension of the ongoing Abramoff probe. Some details on Hastert’s ties to the criminal lobbyist:

CONTRIBUTIONS — HASTERT RECEIVED $100,000 FROM ABRAMOFF AND HIS CLIENTS: “Hastert ultimately collected more than $100,000 in donations from Abramoff’s firm and tribal clients between 2001 and 2004.” In Jan. 2006, Hastert pledged to give approximately $70,000 of the donations to charity. [AP, 11/17/05; CNN, 1/3/06]

COUSHATTA CAMPAIGN — DELAY ORGANIZED HASTERT, BLUNT, AND CANTOR TO BACK ABRAMOFF EFFORT: One of Abramoff’s tribal clients, the Coushattas, “opposed a plan by the Jena Band of Choctaw Indians to open a casino at a non-reservation site, expected at the time to be outside Shreveport, La., not far from a casino owned by the Coushattas.” Abramoff lobbied DeLay’s office to organize a June 10, 2003 letter to Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton endorsing a view of gambling law benefiting the Coushattas. The letter was eventually co-signed by DeLay, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL), Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Deputy Whip Eric I. Cantor (R-VA), a “group of people, who do not normally weigh in on Indian issues.” [Washington Post, 9/28/04]

COUSHATTA CAMPAIGN — HASTERT HELD FUNDRAISER AT ABRAMOFF RESTAURANT, SUPPORTED COUSHATTA LETTER: “House Speaker Dennis Hastert, an Illinois Republican, held a fundraiser at Abramoff’s Signatures restaurant in Washington on June 3, 2003, that collected at least $21,500 for his Keep Our Majority political action committee from the lobbyist’s firm and tribal clients. Seven days later, Hastert wrote Norton urging her to reject the Jena tribe of Choctaw Indians’ request for a new casino.” [AP, 11/17/05]