Dennis Hastert and the law

Former congressman Dennis Hastert has been charged with failing to tell his bank why he was withdrawing his money (up to $3.5 million withdrawn in smaller amounts over a few years). It appears that he was being blackmailed by someone threatening to expose a sexual relationship long ago that Mr. Hastert does not want disclosed. Blackmail is a crime that I understand, but I have yet to read that the blackmailer has been charged with any crime. I assume that that is coming.

Mr. Hastert is being charged with violating our Anti Money Laundering (AML) laws.
These laws allow arresting and convicting people for moving money (as Mr. Hastert was doing) that the government thinks was the proceeds of crime (not the case with Mr. Hastert, his crime was failing to report what he planned to with his money), when they are not able to prove that there was a crime in the first place. As far as I know, paying a blackmailer (which is what Mr. Hastert apparently did) is not a crime, though demanding and receiving such money is. The United States has pushed such legislation and the new bureaucracies needed to enforce it all over the world at the cost of billions and billions of dollars (that could have been used for poverty reduction or other more pressing things) with very little if any benefit to show for it. Charging Dennis Hastert with AML violations is a rare exception. Wow, what a benefit for such intrusions into our private lives. I consider AML laws more than a costly waste of money. They are another expansion of the arbitrary power of governments that can be used for good or ill with limited oversight. They lower the standards required for convictions of the real crime, what ever it was, and to that extend diminish the rule of law as we have always understood it.

It is hard to grasp how far our government has evolved from the freedoms we were guaranteed in our constitution. Most of these incremental intrusions have been in the name of protecting us from ourselves and our neighbors. The unlawful (according to a recent court ruling) spying on its own citizens by the NSA exposed by Edward Snowden is now well known and tomorrow we will see what congress does about it. https://wcoats.wordpress.com/?s=snowden. In another example, The Washington Post and others have exposed the shocking abuse of civil forfeiture laws (modern highway robbery by the police). https://wcoats.wordpress.com/2014/09/10/the-abuse-of-civil-forfeiture/.

These are the tips of an alarming iceberg of regulations contained in tens of thousands of pages of laws and regulations from banking to buying cereal. Charles Murray, a very thoughtful and out of the box thinker and observer of our times, makes an intriguing proposal for fighting back. Like me, he is a student of the 60s when civil disobedience seemed the only weapon left to us against an abusive government: http://www.wsj.com/articles/regulation-run-amokand-how-to-fight-back-1431099256

Has our preference for security over freedom swung so far? What are some people smoking to think that government bureaucrats at homeland security, the IRS or the Veterans Administration can more efficiently meet our needs than we can arrange ourselves in the private sector? I have commented on these alarming developments many times before:
https://wcoats.wordpress.com/2014/06/22/big-brother-is-getting-bigger/ https://wcoats.wordpress.com/2013/03/08/protecting-our-civil-liberties/
https://wcoats.wordpress.com/2014/06/30/the-rule-of-law-2/

About wcoats

Dr. Warren L. Coats specializes in advising central banks on monetary policy, and in the development of their capacity to formulate and implement monetary policy. He is retired from the International Monetary Fund, where, as Assistant Director of the Monetary and Financial Systems Department, he led missions to over twenty countries. Before then, he served as Visiting Economist to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, and to the World Bank, and was Assistant Prof of Economics at the Univ. of Virginia from 1970-75. Most recently he was Senior Monetary Policy Advisor to the Central Bank of Iraq; an IMF consultant to the central banks of Afghanistan, Kenya and Zimbabwe; and a Deloitte/USAID advisor to the Government of South Sudan. He is currently a member of the Editorial Board of the Cayman Financial Review and until the end of 2013 was a member of the IMF program team for Afghanistan. His most recent book is entitled "One Currency for Bosnia: Creating the Central Bank of Bosnia and Herzegovina."
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5 Responses to Dennis Hastert and the law

  1. James Roumasset says:

    The indictment includes lying to the FBI about the alleged “structuring.” But given the various scandals associated w/ the current administration, one has to wonder about the FBI’s enthusiasm for pursuing a prominent Republican.

  2. Joe Cobb says:

    Anti-Money Laundering laws are a necessary corollary to income tax laws (where the “income” is measured in a government’s tax-unit for accounting) and the anti-drug laws (where the “income” even includes bartering, viz. the recent prosecution of Silk Road for accepting Bitcoin). If Dennis Hastert had been more clever, he would have purchased some tangible asset, like a house, and simply “gifted” it to the blackmailer, along with filing a Form 709. Best to have bought the house in some other country.

  3. Mike Burnaugh says:

    Thanks for this post, Warren It is no one’s business how Hastert spends his money. It is HIS to spend as he likes.

    Mike

  4. Pingback: Loretta Lynch and Denny Hastert - BitsBlog

  5. Pingback: The Denny Hastert Scandal: When Bad Things Happen to Bad People for the Wrong Reasons | International Liberty

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