Hastert's state lawmaker pension checks continue, for now

  • Former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert leaves the Dirksen Federal Building in Chicago Wednesday after being sentenced to 15 months in prison.

      Former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert leaves the Dirksen Federal Building in Chicago Wednesday after being sentenced to 15 months in prison. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 4/28/2016 3:50 PM

State officials took away former U.S. Speaker Dennis Hastert's teacher pension the day he was sentenced, but his $28,026 annual benefit from his time as a state lawmaker in Springfield remains.

The benefit has paid him $420,525 since he started collecting the pension in early 1997.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The Teachers' Retirement System revoked Hastert's $16,623 annual pension because the federal felony he was sentenced for Wednesday included allegations of sexual abuse from his time as a teacher and wrestling coach at Yorkville High School.

Those allegations don't include his time in the Illinois House in the 1980s.

Perception problem

Still, some lawmakers say today they want to take that pension away.

"I don't want taxpayers' dollars providing a retirement to this predator," Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, a Shorewood Democrat, said.

Doing so would require a vote of the General Assembly Retirement System board.

For example, that board voted a year ago this month to take away the pension of state Rep. Keith Farnham, an Elgin Democrat convicted on federal child pornography charges.

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In Farnham's case, he used a state computer to trade pornographic images, making the decision a clear one.

Hastert also receives a federal pension.

Past Hastert

Former U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert, a Hinsdale Republican, was on the ethics committee that in 2006 found Hastert and his staff could have done more to protect young House pages from sexually suggestive instant messages sent by then-Rep. Mark Foley of Florida.

Was there any inclination at the time that Hastert acted slowly for personal reasons?

"No, none at all," Biggert said.

'Enough is enough'

From U.S. Randy Hultgren, the Plano Republican representing the congressional district Hastert once represented: "His decades-long cover-up is over. My heart goes out to the victims, survivors and their families. I am in awe of the strength and courage of those who stood up, broke their silence, faced their abuser and said enough is enough."

'Not a big story?'

Late-night comedian Jimmy Kimmel said Wednesday it's puzzling that nationally, "this story, for some reason, it's not a big story."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

He did, though, read excerpts from the letter former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay wrote on Hastert's behalf ahead of sentencing.

"We all have our flaws but Dennis Hastert has very few," it read.

"Yeah, just one really," Kimmel said. "It's a big one, but other than that, great guy."

No more roaches

U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk has written the Department of Veterans Affairs a letter about the potential presence of cockroaches in the Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital in Hines.

"In fact, reports of contamination, including but not limited to the persistent presence of roaches in and around the food service area, have been circulated by staff with facility leadership for years," he wrote.

A spokesman says the office hasn't received a response.

Big week?

Next week in Springfield includes a deadline to put constitutional amendments on the ballot.

That means the backers of a new graduated state income tax have to win approval then. It's a plan that would allow people of different incomes to be taxed at different rates. Now, individuals pay a flat 3.75 percent.

State Rep. Lou Lang, a Skokie Democrat, says he hopes there will be a vote.

It could be tough because at least one Democrat, state Rep. Jack Franks of Marengo, says he's against it, and Democrats in the House would need every last vote if Republicans don't join them in the effort.

"Why is this only a Democratic thing?" Franks said. "How can the Republicans be divorced from this?"

Still waiting

Franks wanted to remind everyone that he said last year in this column that the Cubs might win a World Series title before Illinois gets a budget done.

He wanted to give the reminder because he argues it's still true. Also, maybe add the White Sox.

"I'm going to renew that," he said.

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