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Sunlight Foundation Report on Speaker Hastert's Prairie
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Dennis Hastert's Real Estate Investments
Written by Bill Allison on June 14, 2006 - 2:16pm.
House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert has used an Illinois trust to invest in
real estate near the proposed route of the Prairie Parkway, a highway
project for which he's secured $207 million in earmarked
appropriations. The trust has already transferred 138 acres of land to
a real estate development firm that has plans to build a 1,600-home
community, located less than six miles from the north-south connector
Hastert has championed in the House.
Hastert's 2005 financial disclosure form, released today, makes no
mention of the trust. Hastert lists several real estate transactions in
the disclosure, all of which were in fact done by the trust. Kendall
County public records show no record of Hastert making the real estate
sales he made public today; rather, they were all executed by the trust.
The trust, called the Little Rock Trust #225, transferred 138 acres of
farmland in which Hastert had an interest to a company called
RALC-Plano LLC on Dec. 7, 2005. (See Document 1, attached) Illinois
Secretary of State records show that the company is a wholly owned
subsidiary of the Robert Arthur Land Company. The company’s
Web site lists plans for a Plano development called North County, with
lots for 1,635 homes, 33 acres for commercial and retail businesses,
and 18 acres set aside for a public school.
The proposed path of the Prairie Parkway is a little more than 5.5
miles to the east of the development; the Kendall County Board has
already voted in favor of putting an interchange on Galena Road, giving
residents of the new development easy access to the highway.
Hastert has argued that the highway is needed to cope with Kendall
County's rapid population growth. In 2002, for example, he said the
proposed highway will "address tomorrow's growth-related problems
before they occur."
Hastert’s use of the trust obscured his ownership interest in
particular parcels of property. For example, Hastert listed, on his
2004 financial disclosure form, that he had acquired a "1/4 share in 69
acres (Plano, Ill.)" on Feb. 17, 2004. However, a search of Kendall
County public records for Hastert's name revealed no such purchase.
Instead, Little Rock Trust #225 acquired the property, effectively
hiding Hastert’s interest in the land. (See Document 2.)
On May 2, 2005, the Hasterts transferred an additional 69 acres of
land--part of the property they bought as a primary residence in
2002--to the trust. (see Document 3.)
Those two properties, according to Kendall County’s online
real estate records, were sold by the Little Rock Trust to RALC-Plano
for more than $4.9 million on Dec. 7, 2005.
The trust was established on February 9, 2004. Under Illinois law,
trusts have no obligation to make public the identity of their
beneficiaries. The Little Rock Trust #225 documents do show that the
trustee is Dallas C. Ingemunson, who wears multiple hats in Illinois
and Kendall County politics. He serves as treasurer of Hastert's
federal campaign committee, chairman of the Kendall County Republican
Party, and is sometimes described as Hastert's political mentor.
The trust continues to acquire property. On his 2005 financial
disclosure form, Hastert lists a purchase of "1/3 share of 125.96 acres
(Kendall County, IL)" for between $1,000,001 and $5 million. That
land--located at 15715 Miller Road in Plano--was actually acquired by
the Little Rock Trust. (See Document 4.)
In the interests of public disclosure and transparency in government,
the Sunlight Foundation first contacted Hastert's office on May 26 to
see if they could clarify the speaker's 2004 financial disclosure form,
and whether he had used a partnership or trust to acquire the quarter
share of the 69 acres in Plano. We are still waiting for a response.
UPDATE: Speaker Hastert's attorney responds
Randy Evans, the private attorney of House Speaker Dennis Hastert, sent
the following email in response to our post on Hastert's . I am posting
it with his permission.
Sent: Wednesday, June 14, 2006 4:10 PM
To: Eric Schmeltzer; Bill Allison
Cc: Passantino, Stefan
Subject: Legal Demand for Immediate Action
Dear Mr. Schmeltzer and Mr. Allison:
The statements in your release below are untrue. Rather than simply
disclose participation in a trust (without disclosing what the trust
owns), Speaker Hastert disclosed the amount of his interest and the
location of the property on the Financial Disclosure for the year in
which the closing of the transaction occurred. This is confirmed by the
entries on the Financial Disclosure forms themselves confirming the
interest (including amount), the property, and the type of transaction
(sale, purchase, or exchange). The statements and innuendo in your
release are thus false and misleading.
In addition, the property purchased is adjacent to his home and is more
than 5.5 miles from the Pairie Parkway Corridor. This would be like
complaining about a purchase in Alexandria, Virgina based on
rennovations at the Capitol.
Demand is hereby made that the false, libelous and defamatory matter be
immediately withdrawn and corrected. The failure to do so will confirm
intentional and wilful conduct by you designed to injure the reputation
of Speaker Hastert after becoming actually aware that the published
statements were false. All available remedies will be pursued for such
Counsel to Speaker J. Dennis Hastert
In response, let me note the following:
1) The Speaker does have a trust, as Mr. Evans confirms.
2) The Speaker did not disclose the trust's existence, as Mr. Evans
3) I have over a dozen years experience researching public records, and
I couldn't find the location of Hastert's real estate from the
information he provided on his personal financial disclosure forms. I
also called and emailed the Speaker's office multiple times to get more
information, and could not get sufficient information to determine
where the property in question was.
4) The purpose of financial disclosure is to provide the public with
information about a lawmaker's economic interests. The House Ethics
manual states, in its chapter on disclosure,
Disclosure of real property should include a description sufficient to
permit its identification (e.g., street address or plat and map
Does the phrase, "1/4 share of land (Plano, Ill.)" meet that test? (See
5) I will take Mr. Evans at his word that the distance between the
Prairie Parkway is more than 5.5 miles, and not "a few miles" as I
wrote. I apologize for the imprecision--it was very difficult for me
using several different maps drawn at different scales to estimate the
distance. I am gratified to know that the Speaker's counsel was able to
make such a precise calculation so quickly. I have revised the post