Annual congressional disclosures were released on Wednesday and I worked with colleague Eric Herman on the Sun-Times story on questions raised over House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) turning a quick profit from the sale of land in Plano, in Kendall County.
We did not have room in the print version of the story to add:
*Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) reported taking in $378,239 in royalties on 2005 sales of his book, “Dreams From My Father.”
* Hastert earned between $15,000 and $50,000 from sales of his 2004 book, “Speaker” and as part of the real estate transactions we wrote about he purchased land in Crawford, Wisc. that he may use for a vacation home.
House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert pocketed almost $2 million from real estate deals adjacent to his Plano home in booming Kendall County, one of the fastest growing areas in the nation.
The transactions prompted questions Wednesday from the Sunlight Foundation, a new watchdog group, about whether Hastert, who earmarked $207 million in federal dollars for the proposed Prairie Parkway, had his profits swollen because of the highway.
Hastert attorney Randy Evans threatened legal action against Sunlight for the story it posted on its Web site about the deals.
How close is Prairie Parkway?
What’s not disputed is that Hastert was able to turn a quick profit. Here’s how the deals worked:
*Hastert and his wife bought a 195-acre farm in Plano in 2002, of which 69.5 acres had no access to roads.
*In 2004, Hastert formed a partnership with two friends, GOP power broker Dallas Ingemunson and Tom Klatt. The partners purchased 68.9 acres, with Hastert owning one quarter of the parcel, which fronts a road. This land is adjacent to the other Hastert property.
*In December 2005, the 68.9-acre parcel and the 69.5-acre parcel were sold to a developer, which wants to build at least 1,700 residential units plus commercial space there.
*Hastert’s share of the profits from the sale is close to $2 million.
Annual congressional disclosure statements were released Wednesday, and specific information detailing the transactions was reflected in Hastert’s filing only to a limited degree, which is about all that is required.
“The speaker has been a long-time supporter of building a north-south highway to address the transportation challenges in northeastern Illinois,” said Hastert’s spokesman Ron Bonjean.
“None of the properties purchased by the speaker are near enough to be affected by the proposed parkway,” he said. Bonjean maintains Hastert’s home is 5.5 miles from the Prairie Parkway; the Beacon News puts the development’s edge about three miles away.
Ingemunson told the Sun-Times that the three bought the 68.9-acre parcel from a farmer who wanted “to have cash immediately.” Klatt, Ingemunson and Hastert formed a trust, which bought the land in 2004 for $15,000 an acre — a total price of slightly more than $1 million. Hastert bought his 195 acres for about $11,000 an acre, according to Sunlight.