Hastert To Announce Retirement As Evidence Mounts Of His Involvement In Cunningham Scandal

hastertbow.jpg For months, Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) has insisted that he will not run for re-election in 2008. In August, The New York Times reported that Hastert “intended to serve through next year because he believed he had an obligation to complete his term.”

Yet now “Republican sources” are revealing that Hastert may announce that he plans to leave the House later this year” and retire early, triggering a special election to replace him.

No specific reason has yet been given for Hastert’s early retirement. DownWithTyranny points out that CNN quoted a GOP aide as stating, “I think he is just done with being a member of Congress.” The former Speaker’s announcement, however, comes as mounting evidence proves Hastert’s involvement in the Duke Cunningham corruption scandal.

In yesterday’s hearings, Joel Combs, the nephew of contractor Brent Wilkes, implicated Hastert in the scandal by pointing to an expensive trip the lawmaker received from Wilkes:

A defense contractor paid thousands of dollars for golf trips, private jet flights, Super Bowl box seats and boat navigation systems for former Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham, the contractor’s nephew testified Wednesday.

In return, Brent Wilkes had virtually unlimited access to the lawmaker, said Joel Combs, who worked for Wilkes and frequently joined him on trips and at meals with the congressman. […]

Wilkes also paid to fly Cunningham and former House Speaker Dennis Hastert from a golf outing in Palm Springs to San Diego for a reception and then back to Washington on private jets, Combs testified.

In September, Wilkes’s lawyer, Mark Geragos, attempted to subpoena dozens of federal lawmakers, including Hastert, to testify. House lawyers, however, “objected, saying members of Congress are covered under a constitutional provision that shields them from testifying about the legislative process.” Earlier this month, Geragos said he may attempt to issue new subpoenas for these members.

Hastert was also wrapped up in the ethics scandal of fallen lobbyist Jack Abramoff, ultimately collecting “more than $100,000 in donations from Abramoff’s firm and tribal clients between 2001 and 2004.” While receiving these contributions, Hastert wrote to federal officials on behalf of Abramoff’s clients.