Facts about Dennis Hastert
Dennis Hastert Biography
Name at birth: John Dennis Hastert
Republican Dennis Hastert is the former U.S. Speaker of the House who in 2015 was alleged to have paid $1.7 million in hush money to cover up his sexual abuse of a student during his years as a high school teacher.
Dennis Hastert was raised in a farming family in Illinois and was a star wrestler and football player in high school. He graduated from Wheaton College in 1964 with a degree in economics, and earned a master’s degree in education from Northern Illinois University in 1967.
He was deemed unfit for military service due to an old wrestling injury and instead became a teacher and wrestling coach at Yorkville High School from 1965-1981.
In 1980 he turned to politics, winning election to the Illinois Legislature. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from the state’s 14th Congressional District in 1986.
He rose quickly through the ranks of Congressional Republicans, becoming chief deputy whip under Newt Gingrich in 1995.
Rumpled, gray-haired, heavy-set and plainspoken, Hastert developed a reputation as a staunch conservative who got deals done in a low-key way. In 1999 he was the surprise choice as Speaker of the House when Gingrich resigned and his successor, Bob Livingston, was discovered to have had extramarital affairs.
Hastert served eight years as speaker, for most of that time working closely with President George W. Bush, a fellow Republican, in the era of the 9/11 attacks and the Iraq War.
In 2006 he won reelection but the GOP lost control of Congress; he was replaced as Speaker by Democrat Nancy Pelosi, and resigned in November of 2007, in the middle of his last term. The next year he went to work for the lobbying firm Dickstein Shapiro, where he lobbied on behalf of Lorillard Tobacco and the coal company Peabody Energy, among other clients.
In 2015, Dennis Hastert was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of circumventing banking laws and lying to the FBI in regards to his illegal withdrawal of $1.7 million in cash from various bank accounts between 2010 and 2015.
In trial, Hastert admitted to being a serial sexual abuser while a teacher in Chicago. His illegal financial structure was hush money for some of those he abused. Hastert was sentenced to 15 months in jail. After serving 13 months, he was transferred to a halfway house to finish his term.
Dennis Hastert and his wife, the former Jean Kahl, were married in 1973; she also worked as a schoolteacher. They have two sons, Ethan and Joshua… Dennis Hastert is a diabetic, according to a 2015 profile in The Washington Post… Hastert’s wrestling team won a state championship in 1976, and Hastert was named Illinois wrestling coach of the year… He published a memoir, Speaker: Lessons from Forty Years in Coaching and Politics, in 2004… After Hastert’s indictment in 2015, Wheaton College took his name off of the J. Dennis Hastert Center for Economics, Government and Public Policy.