TIME Campaign Finance

Senate Bill Would Limit Lobbyists From Bundling Campaign Donations

U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, D, joined other law makers during a walk though inspection of the new VA hospital construction site in Aurora, April 24, 2015.
RJ Sangosti—Copyright - 2015 The Denver Post, MediaNews Group U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, D, joined other law makers during a walk though inspection of the new VA hospital construction site in Aurora, April 24, 2015.

Sen. Michael Bennet, former leader of the Democratic Party’s Senate campaign arm, is sponsoring a bill that would make his successor’s job even harder.

Under Bennet’s leadership, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee accumulated nearly three times as much “bundled” money from lobbyists than its counterpart, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of federal campaign finance filings.

The DSCC reported raising roughly $4.3 million from lobbyist-bundlers during 2013 and 2014, compared to $1.5 million reported by the NRSC.

But Bennet’s bill would severely limit high-octane lobbyists’ ability to “bundle” campaign contributions — the act of raising money from people and delivering it to campaigns in one bundle. It’s a move that could further handicap his party’s effort at next year winning back a Senate majority — and has invited cries of hypocrisy from Republicans.

Matt Connelly, a spokesman for the NRSC, said the legislation shows Bennet “says one thing and has done another on the issue.” Connelly declined to comment on the substance of Bennet’s bill.

Sadie Weiner, the DSCC’s national press secretary, declined to comment on Bennet’s proposal. The office of Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., who now leads the DSCC, did not respond to a question about whether the DSCC will continue to accept unlimited money from lobbyist-bundlers.

Asked whether Bennet, a Colorado Democrat, would personally continue to accept contributions bundled by lobbyists, Bennet spokesman Adam Bozzi said the senator wishes campaign finance rules were different and is fighting for reforms, but “until then he will continue to abide by the rules.”

In an emailed statement, Bennet himself said members of Congress’s attention has for too long “been distorted toward lobbyists and special interests, rather than the people who elected them and they represent … we can take significant steps to returning the power to the American people by preventing members of Congress from chasing down tens of thousands of dollars from lobbyists while they should be doing their jobs.”

Already, lobbyists who raise above a certain threshold must be identified by campaigns on reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. Bundlers who are not lobbyists are not required to be publicly disclosed.

Bennet’s legislation would require lobbyists to count money they raise from other people against their own personal contribution limits, which vary for different kinds of political committees.

For example, a lobbyist could only bundle up to $2,700 for a single federal candidate per election.

Beyond restricting how much money lobbyists may bundle, Bennet’s bill would also prohibit members of Congress and candidates from soliciting contributions from registered lobbyists while Congress is in session. It would furthermore force more people to register as lobbyists by eliminating certain regulatory thresholds.

Bennet, who faces re-election in 2016, introduced similar legislation during the 113th Congress, but it failed to even reach the Senate floor for a vote.

Several groups that promote campaign finance and lobbying reform, including Democracy 21, the Campaign Legal Center and the League of Women Voters, have endorsed the bill.

But the legislation’s prospects are equally dim this time around, Bennet and others acknowledged. A divided Congress has been unable to pass almost any campaign finance or ethics bills of late.

Craig Holman, a lobbyist for Public Citizen, which advocates for campaign finance and lobbying reform, said he expects the 2016 elections to be the “ messiest federal election that we’ve ever seen,” which could spark new calls for reform.

“Hopefully, some action will come of it later,” Holman said.

At least some lobbyists wouldn’t mind if the bill passed.

“I’m in favor of banning not just lobbyist bundling but lobbyist contributions” said Tony Podesta, the founder of lobbying firm the Podesta Group.

Podesta, a high-profile Democratic donor whose dozens of clients include Google, T-Mobile and Wal-Mart, bundled nearly half a million dollars for the DSCC during the 2014 election cycle. That’s more than any other single lobbyist bundled for the committee.

Asked about the legislation’s odds of passing, Podesta wryly nodded at lawmakers’ historic reluctance to pass legislation limiting their own ability to raise money.

“I would say they are 2,700 to one.”

The Center for Public Integrity is a nonprofit investigative news organization based in Washington, D.C. For more political investigations, go here, or follow the Center for Public Integrity on Twitter.

TIME Apache

#theBrief: The Battle for Apache Land

The land swap was hidden in the defense spending bill's "rider"

In December 2014, Congress passed the defense spending bill. And amid all the talks about expansion of military power and the treatment of suspected terrorists, one thing — totally unrelated to national defense — was able to slip through the cracks: the selling of sacred Apache land to an Australian mining company.

Now, Arizona Apache Indians are occupying that land in protest. And tribal leader Terry Rambler said the swap is a gross violation of Apache rights.

In 1955, President Eisenhower put forth an executive order protecting the land from mining and in 1971, President Nixon renewed the order.

So how did Congress manage to pass the land swap bill? TIME Foreign Editor Bryan Walsh explains in the above video.

TIME National Security

Congress Sends NSA Surveillance Bill to Obama

The President plans to sign it quickly

(WASHINGTON) — Congress has sent legislation to the president reviving and remaking a disputed post-9/11 surveillance program two days after letting it temporarily expire.

The vote in the Senate Tuesday was 67-32. The House already has passed the bill, and President Barack Obama plans to sign it quickly.

The legislation will phase out, over six months, the once-secret National Security Agency bulk phone records collection program made public two years ago by agency contractor Edward Snowden.

It will be replaced by a program that keeps the records with phone companies but allows the government to search them with a warrant.

Senate Republican leaders opposed the House bill but were forced to accept it unchanged after senators rejected last-ditch attempts to amend it.

TIME Congress

Senators Introduce Bill to Track Police Shootings

"Without reliable data it's difficult to hold people accountable"

A new bill aims to increase police accountability by requiring states to report all shootings by police officers to the Justice Department.

The bill, introduced Tuesday by two Democratic senators, Barbara Boxer of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey, would cover both fatal and non-fatal shootings by police, as well as other instances of police using deadly force, the senators announced.

The legislation comes on the heels of unrest in several cities across the country in response to what protesters see as excessive police force and a lack of police accountability in the justice system, most recently in Baltimore after Freddie Gray died of an injury sustained in police custody. Under the legislation, states would be required to report the age, gender and race of any person seriously injured or killed by police, as well as whether the person was armed.

Civil rights activists have long pointed to a lack of accurate or comprehensive data on how many people are killed annually by police officers in the U.S. Both the Post and The Guardian have recently announced projects that aim to tally all deaths at the hands of American police.

Last week, the Post reported that at least 385 people have been shot and killed by police nationwide since the beginning of this year. If the trend continues, the U.S. will have more than double the number of fatal police shootings this year compared to the number the federal government has reported as the yearly average, based on limited self-reported data.

“Without reliable data it’s difficult to hold people accountable or create effective policies that change the status quo,” Booker said in a statement.

Boxer, in a statement on her website, said the data the FBI currently collects is not sufficient.

“Too many members of the public and police officers are being killed, and we don’t have reliable data to track these tragic incidents,” Boxer said in the statement. “This bill will ensure that we know the full extent of the problem so we can save lives on all sides.”

TIME Rand Paul

Rand Paul Kills Patriot Act, Boosts Presidential Campaign—For the Moment

Presidential hopeful delivers on promise to shut down one NSA program. He never said it would last forever.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s victory over President Obama and most of his Senate colleagues Sunday was messy and almost certain to be brief. But by forcing key U.S. intelligence programs to go dark, he scored a clear win for civil libertarians and those backing his White House campaign.

The Kentucky Republican interrupted his Senate colleagues, threw up procedural roadblocks and even borrowed Democrats’ time to make his objections. He drew reprimands over Senate decorum and rules. Peers scowled at him as he smirked in his leather chair, and Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell called the scene inside the chamber he nominally controls “a totally unacceptable outcome.”

Yet, at the end of Sunday’s rare Senate session, Paul was able to claim victory: “I came here to defend the Bill of Rights, not to be popular,” he tweeted. The freshman single-handedly shut down intelligence agencies’ legal authority to continue collecting domestic phone records for a searchable database of who is phoning whom. The law that permitted the program, as well as several other techniques of the National Security Agency, was set to expire as the clock struck midnight Sunday, and Paul was unyielding in his effort to ensure there would be at least some temporary end to it.

MORE: Senator Rand Paul: I Will Stop the Illegal NSA Spying

For Paul, the real audience was the Republican electorate that will pick a White House nominee next year, along with potential donors who can fund his campaign. “Mark my words: The battle’s not over,” Paul said on the Senate floor, where supporters in “Stand with Rand” T-shirts watched him from the Senate visitors’ space. “The Patriot Act will expire tonight,” Paul said, before referencing his opponents. “It will only be temporary. They will ultimately get their way.”

Reluctantly, the Senate agreed to take up a House-passed bill by a 77-11 vote, and will add tweaks to it that the House will consider when it returns this week. The House bill winds down the bulk government collection of the phone records but requires phone companies to retain similar information, where it can be accessed with specific court orders.

After it was clear that the Paul would carry the day, the White House issued a statement of condemnation. “On a matter as critical as our national security, individual Senators must put aside their partisan motivations and act swiftly,” the document read. “The American people deserve nothing less.”

One Paul rival for the White House nomination, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, voted with him in opposing a Senate debate over the House version. Rubio did not speak on his vote. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas voted for the House version, which would shift the collection of Americans’ phone data to phone companies and away from the NSA. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina was absent; he was back in his home state, where he is set to start his 2016 campaign on Monday.

But Paul’s conduct again renewed concerns about how he would serve as President, and the scene was certain to raise questions among national security conservatives who have a big voice in the party. “People here in town think I’m making a huge mistake. Some of them, I think, secretly want there to be an attack on the United States so they can blame it on me,” Paul said, casting himself as a victim of the political elites.

Set for a midnight expiration, the surveillance program included in the post-Sept. 11 anti-terrorism bill allowed the National Security Agency to collect information that appears on most phone bills: dates and times that calls were placed, how long they lasted and which numbers answered them. In a recent ruling, a federal appeals court said the program was too broad under current congressional authorization, but that ruling was put on hold while Congress had a chance to sort it out. The provision also lets law enforcement officers check other business records, such as hotel bills.

With the law’s expiration, the NSA and FBI will have to return to pre-Sept. 11 ways to collect this information until a replacement Patriot Act is passed by the Congress and signed by President Obama. In most cases where the targets are in the United States, that means going to a judge and asking for a search warrant to get information on specific phone numbers, not the entire database of phone transactions. If Congress renews it—and President Barack Obama restore the powers he sought to keep— the agencies could restart the data collection in a matter of days.

That remained unacceptable for Paul, who vowed to continue his fight against it. “We should be upset. We should be marching in the streets,” Paul thundered in a speech that seemed more directed at a campaign commercial than the civil and somber Senate chamber. “We cannot allow this,” Paul roared.

He even cut off a fellow Kentuckian, McConnell, who has endorsed Paul’s campaign and is the most powerful lawmaker in the chamber. McConnell seemed positively flummoxed by Paul’s one-man roadblock that prevented even a two-week extension of the current program. “That’s a totally unacceptable outcome,” McConnell said.

Even typically mild-mannered Sen. Dan Coats of Indiana was peeved with his fellow Republican for promoting “a siren song” and “a bunch of hokum.” An Indiana Republican who serves on the Intelligence Committee, Coats accused Paul of spreading irresponsible misinformation about the law. Voters, Coats said, now think government “is listening to every phone call that they make” and “knows everything about you.”

“It’s misrepresentation,” he said. “It’s time we told the truth.”

At that point, Paul interrupted Coats—a break in Senate decorum. Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican who was his party’s Presidential nominee in 2008, rose to Coats’ defense. “The Senator from Kentucky should learn the rules of the Senate,” McCain said dryly. The hawkish military veteran is Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and sits on the Homeland Security panel.

“Obviously people don’t know the rules of the Senate. Maybe they should learn them,” McCain continued.

But Paul continued, using every trick up a Senator’s sleeve to delay debate and to confound his colleagues. He even asked the clerks to take attendance—a stalling tactic.

Eventually, his colleagues left the chamber. They had been away from Washington for more than a week, and they wanted to check in with their offices around the Capitol before heading home.

“This is a manufactured crisis,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Don’t duck behind not doing anything and then pretend that’s a solution.”

TIME Congress

Surveillance Powers Set to Lapse With no Deal in Senate

(WASHINGTON) — The National Security Agency is losing its authority to collect Americans’ phone records in bulk, after GOP Sen. Rand Paul stood in the way of extending the fiercely contested program in an extraordinary Sunday Senate session.

But that program and several other post-Sept. 11 counter-terror measures look likely to be revived in a matter of days. With no other options, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, in an about-face, reluctantly embraced a House-passed bill that would extend the anti-terror provisions that expire Sunday at midnight, while also remaking the bulk phone collections program.

Although the lapse in the programs may be brief, intelligence officials warned that it could jeopardize Americans’ safety and amount to a win for terrorists. But civil liberties groups applauded as Paul, who is running for president, forced the expiration of the once-secret program made public by NSA contractor Edward Snowden, which critics say is an unconstitutional intrusion into Americans’ privacy.

The Senate voted 77-17 to move ahead on the House-passed bill, the USA Freedom Act, which only last weekend fell three votes short of the 60 needed to advance in the Senate. For McConnell, it was a remarkable retreat after objecting ferociously that the House bill would make the bulk phone collections program dangerously unwieldy by requiring the government to search records maintained by phone companies.

“It’s not ideal but, along with votes on some modest amendments that attempt to ensure the program can actually work as promised, it’s now the only realistic way forward,” McConnell said.

The White House backs the House bill. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement: “The Senate took an important — if late — step forward tonight. We call on the Senate to ensure this irresponsible lapse in authorities is as short-lived as possible. On a matter as critical as our national security, individual senators must put aside their partisan motivations and act swiftly.”

But the Senate adjourned without final action on the bill after Paul asserted his prerogative under Senate rules to delay a final vote for several days.

“This is what we fought the revolution over, are we going to so blithely give up our freedom? … I’m not going to take it anymore,” Paul declared on the Senate floor, as supporters wearing red “Stand With Rand” T-shirts packed the spectator gallery.

Paul’s moves greatly complicated matters for fellow Kentuckian McConnell, who has endorsed him for president, and infuriated fellow Republicans. They exited the Senate chamber en masse when Paul stood up to speak following the procedural vote on the House bill.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., complained to reporters that Paul places “a higher priority on his fundraising and his ambitions than on the security of the nation.”

Paul, for his part, asserted that, “People here in town think I’m making a huge mistake. Some of them I think secretly want there to be an attack on the United States so they can blame it on me.”

In addition to the bulk phone collections provision, two lesser-known Patriot Act provisions also lapse at midnight: one, so far unused, helps track “lone wolf” terrorism suspects unconnected to a foreign power; the second allows the government to eavesdrop on suspects who continually discard their cellphones. The House bill extends those two provisions unchanged, while remaking the bulk collection program so that the NSA would stop collecting the phone records after a six month transition period, but would be authorized under court order to search records held by phone companies.

The FBI’s use of the Patriot Act to collect hotel, travel, credit card, banking and other business records in national security investigations would also be extended under the House bill. Law enforcement officials say the collection of those business records is more valuable than the better-known bulk phone collections program. Ongoing investigations would be permitted to continue even after authority for the programs lapses.

CIA Director John Brennan was among those warning that letting the authorities lapse, even for a time, will make America less safe.

Terrorists “are looking for the seams to operate within,” Brennan said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” ”This is something that we can’t afford to do right now.” He bemoaned “too much political grandstanding and crusading for ideological causes that have skewed the debate on this issue” and said the terrorism-fighting tools are important to American lives.

For Paul, the issue represents a potent political opportunity, and his presidential campaign has been sending out numerous fundraising appeals focused on it. A super PAC supporting him even produced an over-the-top video casting the dispute as a professional wrestling-style “Brawl for Liberty” between Paul and President Barack Obama — even though Paul’s main opponent on the issue is McConnell.

The NSA already had begun winding down the phone collection program in anticipation that it will not be renewed. To ensure the program has ceased by the time authority for it expires at midnight, the agency planned to begin shutting down the servers that carry it out at 3:59 p.m. Sunday. Rebooting would take about a day.

TIME Congress

Surveillance Powers to Lapse Without Senate Action

(WASHINGTON) — A midnight deadline drew near for senators meeting in an extraordinary Sunday session to extend surveillance programs, but a lapse seemed unavoidable and intelligence officials worried about giving terrorists greater freedom to operate.

Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, a presidential candidate, has made clear he planned to force the expiration of the bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records. The chamber’s rules allow him to do it, at least temporarily.

Terrorists “are looking for the seams to operate within,” CIA Director John Brennan said. “This is something that we can’t afford to do right now.” He bemoaned “too much political grandstanding and crusading for ideological causes that have skewed the debate on this issue” and said the terrorism-fighting tools are important to American lives.

A House-passed bill backed by the White House would remake the National Security Agency’s phone collection program. But Senate backers were three votes short.

Even if the legislation were to gain the needed support, in spite of opposition from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., all senators would need to agree to move to a final vote. Paul was not going along.

“I will force the expiration of the NSA illegal spy program,” Paul said in a statement Saturday. “Sometimes when the problem is big enough, you just have to start over.”

Paul cannot hold off a final vote indefinitely, just for a few days. But until the impasse was resolved, the NSA would lose legal authority to collect and search domestic phone records for connections to international terrorists — the once-secret program revealed by agency contractor Edward Snowden.

Two lesser-known Patriot Act provisions also would lapse: one, so far unused, helps track “lone wolf” terrorism suspects unconnected to a foreign power; the second allows the government to eavesdrop on suspects who continually discard their cellphones.

“The American people deserve better than this, especially when it comes to a program that is an integral part of protecting our national security,” said Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who nonetheless predicted passage of the House plan by Wednesday.

A member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Maine independent Angus King, found it to be an “unusual position” for Paul “to be talking about essentially unilaterally disarming an important national security tool at a time when I have never seen the threat level higher.”

The White House contended that letting the surveillance powers expire would jeopardize national security.

“Heaven forbid we’ve got a problem where we could have prevented a terrorist attack or apprehended someone who is engaged in dangerous activity but we didn’t do so simply because of inaction in the Senate,” President Barack Obama said Friday.

The White House-backed USA Freedom Act would keep the programs operating, but shut down the bulk phone collection program over six months and give phone companies the job of maintaining records the government could search.

Civil libertarians dispute the White House’s warnings, arguing that the surveillance programs have never been shown to produce major results.

“The sky is not going to fall,” the American Civil Liberties Union executive director, Anthony Romero, told reporters.

Paul’s opposition complicated matters for McConnell, who oversaw a chaotic late-night session the previous weekend when the Senate failed to pass the House bill and several straight-up extensions of current law.

Paul’s presidential campaign is aggressively raising money on the issue. A super PAC supporting him produced a video casting the dispute as a professional wrestling-style “Brawl for Liberty” between Paul and Obama — even though Paul’s main opponent on the issue is McConnell.

McConnell had little to say in response to Paul’s stalling plan. Spokesman Don Stewart said McConnell called the Senate back “to make every effort to provide the intelligence community with the tools it needs.”

McConnell supports an extension of current law, but even if the Senate could agree to that Sunday, the House was not in session and could not approve it and send it in time to the president.

The NSA has begun winding down the phone collection program in anticipation that it will not be renewed.

To ensure the program has ceased by the time authority for it expires at midnight, the agency planned to begin shutting down the servers that carry it out at 3:59 p.m. Sunday.

That step would be reversible for four hours — by which time it should be evident whether there’s any hope of a last-minute deal on Capitol Hill. After that, rebooting would take about a day.

Brennan spoke on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” while Lee and King appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

___

Associated Press writers Ken Dilanian and Jim Kuhnhenn contributed to this report.

TIME National Security

Here’s What Could Happen If the Patriot Act Expires

President Obama warns of lapses in national security

The Patriot Act is set to expire at 12:01 Monday morning unless the Senate votes to extend it, a week after they failed to reach a deal that would allow the law’s anti-terror protections to remain in place.

President Obama and his national security advisers warn that losing the Patriot Act—which has come under fire from those who have privacy and civil liberties concerns—could weaken the government’s ability to prevent terrorist attacks. “I don’t want us to be in a situation where for a certain period of time those authorities go away,” Obama said Friday in the Oval Office. “And heaven forbid we’ve got a problem where we could have prevented a terrorist attack or apprehended someone who was engaged in dangerous activity but we didn’t do so simply because of inaction in the Senate.”

That’s why he’s pushing Senators to pass the USA Freedom Act, a compromise bill that would extend some aspects of the Patriot Act while ending the National Security Agency’s ability to collect phone records in bulk. Under that reform bill, telecommunications companies would store customer’s metadata in bulk, but the NSA would need specific warrants to get someone’s data. The House passed the USA Freedom Act by a wide margin earlier this month, but some Senators are arguing that the bill doesn’t go far enough to protect American freedom and privacy.

Senator Rand Paul told Politico Saturday that he would refuse to allow Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to expedite debate on the bill. “Tomorrow, I will force the expiration of the NSA illegal spy program,” he said.

If the Patriot Act expires and the USA Freedom Act is not passed in its place, the government would lose three tools in the fight against terrorism, according to CNN. The NSA would not longer be allowed to collect metadata on Americans and store that data for five years, as they’re currently allowed to do under Section 215, and law enforcement couldn’t get roving warrants to track all of a terror suspect’s devices—they’d have to get individual warrants for each device. And the U.S. would no longer be legally allowed to use national security powers against “lone wolf” terrorists (i.e., not part of a known terror network), a power the government says it has never used. If the USA Freedom Act is passed, those last two powers would stay intact—only the metadata collection would be affected.

Even if the Patriot Act expires, the government could continue using Section 215 provisions in ongoing investigations of terror suspects—they just couldn’t use them in any new investigations. The NSA has been winding down its metadata collection program this week, and is scheduled to sever all connections with phone companies by Sunday afternoon.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Wednesday that if a deal is not reached, the U.S. could face a “serious lapse” in national security.

TIME Congress

What Does This Mysterious C-SPAN Call to Dennis Hastert Mean?

“Hello, Denny"

A C-SPAN caller’s mysterious question to Dennis Hastert last year has taken on a new meaning in light of recent allegations that the former House Speaker illegally paid $3.5 million in hush money to an unidentified resident of Yorkville.

The call was placed during a 2014 interview on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal.”

“Hello, Denny,” said the caller, who identified himself as Bruce. “Do you remember me from Yorkville?”

The caller then laughs and hangs up the phone, and the interview moves on without further comment. Footage of the call garnered newfound attention after a federal grand jury indicted Hastert on Thursday for allegedly paying an acquaintance in his hometown of Yorkville hush money over “prior misconduct.”

TIME

Everything We Do and Don’t Know About the Hastert Indictment

Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert was indicted by a federal grand jury on Thursday

The announcement that federal prosecutors had charged former House Speaker Dennis Hastert with lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigations about a series of bank transactions shook Washington on Thursday.

Though the Illinois Republican isn’t exactly a stranger to scandal—he was voted Speaker of the House following a scandal surrounding Newt Gingrich’s would-be successor—the announcement and the mystery surrounding it have spurred myriad questions about the Speaker’s future, and most importantly, his past.

Below, we attempt to address the most pressing questions that have been raised amid Hastert’s indictment.

Who is Dennis Hastert?

Dennis Hastert is a former Republican Congressman from Illinois and the longest serving Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives. Hastert was born in Aurora, Ill. and attended Wheaton College and Northern Illinois University. Before heading to Washington, Hastert worked at Yorkville High School in Yorkville, Ill., a small city in Northern Illinois about an hour outside of Chicago. At the high school, Hastert taught history and coached the high school wrestling team. He worked there from 1965 until 1981. In the early 1980s, he launched his political career, first serving in the Illinois state House of Representatives and later replacing Republican Rep. John Grotberg in Washington. Hastert rose to prominence on Capitol Hill and replaced Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1999. TIME magazine called him at the time, “The Speaker Who Never Was.” Hastert is often credited for establishing a rule in the House that limits the minority party’s power by only bringing bills to vote if the majority of the majority party doesn’t support it.

What has he been up to since?

Hastert stepped down as Speaker of the House after the 2006 election and in the wake of a lurid scandal surrounding Florida Rep. Mark Foley. Foley was found to have sent sexually suggestive messages to Congressional aides. Hastert was criticized for improperly handling Foley’s actions. Hastert had served on the Advisory of the J. Dennis Hastert Center for Economics, Government and Public Policy at Wheaton College, which was launched in 2007 after Hastert donated his congressional papers to the school. On Friday, the school announced Hastert had resigned from the Board of Directors. Hastert had also joined the Washington lobbying firm Dickstein Shapiro after leaving the House. The firm announced on Thursday the former Congressman had resigned in the wake of the indictment.

What is he accused of doing?

According to the indictment, Hastert is accused of lying to the FBI. Between 2010 and 2012, Hastert allegedly made 15 $50,000 withdrawals from his accounts and various banks and gave the money to an unidentified person, referred to as “Individual A.” The reason Hastert made the payments, according to the indictment, was “to compensate Individual A to remain secret so as to cover up his [Hastert’s] past misconduct.” The withdrawals caught the eye of the banks, which are required by law to report any transaction or series of transactions over $10,000. Hastert reportedly withdrew over $1.7 million dollars over four and a half years, about half of the $3.5 million he was supposedly giving to “Individual A” as a part of their agreement, according to the indictment.

Bank officials questioned Hastert, but after questioning the congressman started withdrawing cash in increments of $10,000 or less. That raised another red flag for federal authorities who started investigating the withdrawals in 2013. A year later, the FBI asked Hastert directly about the transactions and whether he was using the money to “cover up past misconduct” or if he was storing the cash. Hastert reportedly told agents, “Yeah…I kept the cash. That’s what I’m doing.”

Who is “Individual A”?

The indictment does not name “Individual A,” but it does provide some vague details about the person’s connection to Hastert. Individual A has known Hastert for all of his or her life and was born and raised in Yorkville, Ill.—the town where Hastert worked as a teacher and coach between 1965 and 1981. Individual A made contact with Hastert in 2010 a number of times. At the meetings, they are alleged to have discussed the undefined “misconduct” by Hastert. After the 2010 meetings, Hastert began withdrawing and delivering the cash.

What is the misconduct?

This part is unclear. The misconduct is repeatedly referred to as having occurred “against Individual A.” But the indictment does not specify what misconduct Hastert is accused of conducting. The indictment links Hastert and Individual A through the town of Yorkville—where the individual resides and where Hastert was once a teacher. The Los Angeles Times, citing two anonymous sources, reported on Friday afternoon that the misconduct was sexual in nature. Hastert’s lobbying firm declined to comment, while his attorney could not be reached by the newspaper.

Did anyone know?

The Yorkville Community Unit School District reportedly said they had “no knowledge of Mr. Hastert’s alleged misconduct, nor has any individual contacted the District to report any such misconduct.” In an interview with CNN, 2016 Presidential hopeful Rick Santorum, a former Congressman and Senator, said the whole ordeal seems “very much out of character” for Hastert. Reporters have unearthed a C-SPAN call during Hastert’s 2014 appearance on “Washington Journal” that could offer clues. In that call, a man identifying himself as “Bruce” calls into the program to speak with Hastert. “Hello Denny,” the caller says. “Remember me from Yorkville?” The caller than laughs and is disconnected.

What happens next?

According to the Wall Street Journal, a judge has not been assigned to the case and there is no date set for Hastert to appear in court. The Associated Press reports each count of the two-count indictment carries a maximum of 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

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