News & Politics

Three Friends of Dennis Hastert Come to His Defense

Dennis Hastert leaves the Dirksen US Courthouse last October after pleading guilty. Photograph by Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune/TNS/Alamy Live News.

Months after former Republican house speaker Dennis Hastert pleaded guilty to violating banking requirements, three of his old colleagues went to bat for him.

Bill Pollard, a former CEO of the ServiceMaster Company, Floyd Kvamme, a California-based venture capitalist, and PJ Hill, a senior fellow at an environmental research center in Montana, all wrote letters to District Court Judge Thomas Durkin about Hastert. Pollard cited the beleaguered former speaker’s health (he recently had a stroke), while Kvamme and Hill mentioned his public service record and rapport with Wheaton College students. The letters come in the wake of Hastert’s sentencing, now scheduled for April 27.

Pollard, Kvamme, and Hill all sit on the advisory board at what used to be called the J. Dennis Hastert Center for Economics, Government, and Public Policy at Wheaton College. Hastert, a Wheaton alumnus, founded the center in 2007 after resigning from his post as speaker. He’d occasionally lecture there and often worked with Kvamme and Hill.

According to court documents, Hastert agreed to pay an anonymous recipient $3.5 million in 2010 “in order to compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct.” While no charges have been made, federal officials were told that the payment was to cover up Hastert’s sexual abuse of a student at Yorkville High School in Illinois, where Hastert taught history and coached wrestling before entering politics. This past weekend, prosecutors said Hastert molested at least four boys total during his time at Yorkville.

From 2010 to 2014 Hastert made cash withdrawals in lump increments of $50,000 and less than $10,000, totaling around $1.7 million. He was indicted last May for lying to the FBI about the reasons for his withdrawals and for avoiding bank reporting requirements.  Hastert pleaded guilty to the latter charge last October.

A few days after the indictment, Wheaton College changed the name of the school Hastert founded to the Wheaton Center for Faith, Politics, and Economics.

Reached by Washingtonian, Kvamme says he doesn’t know much about the sexual misconduct accusations against Hastert. “Obviously, it’s not pretty stuff,” he says, adding that the rumors portray, “a different Denny from the Denny I worked with at the school.”

“I just wanted to speak out about the Denny I worked with and enjoyed working with, who was making a positive contribution with the students,” he says.

Hill had no further comment on his letter.

Pollard identifies himself as a “chairman emeritus” of the ServiceMaster Company in his letter to Judge Durkin. But according to Peter Tosches, a senior vice president there, this isn’t an official title the company recognizes.

When asked to comment, Wheaton College reiterated the statement it put out after Hastert’s indictment, without mentioning any of the three letters:

“As indicated at the time of the indictment, the College respects Mr. Hastert’s distinguished public service record and the due process being afforded him pursuant to the charges that have been filed against him. the College accepted Speaker Hastert’s resignation from the Board of Advisors of the J. Dennis Hastert Center for Economics, Government, and Public Policy at Wheaton College. In light of the charges and guilty plea, the College has re-designated the center as the Wheaton College Center for Faith, Politics and Economics.”

Here are the letters:

Hastert Letters by Washingtonian Magazine

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Jackson Knapp
Assistant Editor