Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert and two partners turned a profit of more than $3 million on property they accumulated and sold in just over three years near the route of a proposed controversial freeway on the western fringe of suburban Chicago, according to land records and financial disclosure reports released Wednesday.
Hastert spokesman Ron Bonjean rejected the notion that the land, located 5 1/2 miles from the proposed Prairie Parkway route, rose in value because of the highway project. The speaker long has been an aggressive proponent of the highway and helped secure more than $200 million in federal funding through an earmark in federal transportation legislation.
The property near Plano, Ill., was sold three months after the transportation bill was signed into law. It was purchased by a real estate developer who is planning to build more than 1,500 homes on the land.
Kendall County, where the land is located, has one of the fastest-growing housing markets in the nation, and there has been a corollary rapid rise in land values...
...Hastert received five-eighths of the proceeds from the land sale, said Dallas Ingemunson, one of his partners. That indicates a profit of more than $1.5 million for Hastert.
The Sunlight Foundation, a Washington-based ethics advocacy group, assailed Hastert for allegedly profiteering from the proposed highway. The group charged that he had sought to conceal his interest because the sale was made through a land trust that did not publicly identify Hastert as a partner.
Hastert profited `in secrecy'
"Speaker Hastert's trust allowed him to profit--in secrecy--from the very growth that he cites to justify the Prairie Parkway," said Bill Allison, a senior fellow with the foundation, in a statement to reporters.
The property was sold through a land trust, Little Rock Trust No. 225, that identified only one member of the partnership in public records--Ingemunson. He is a long-time supporter and political mentor to Hastert who is chairman of the Kendall County Republican Party.
Such land trusts are a common business arrangement in Illinois. The trusts are not required to disclose all owners.
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