(SPRINGFIELD) He rose to one of the highest elected offices in the land, serving for eight years as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives — just a couple of heartbeats from the presidency.
A member of Congress between 1987 and 2007 representing Chicago’s western suburbs, Hastert became a lobbyist and government affairs adviser after leaving Congress.
He commuted regularly between Washington and his Illinois home.
Since 2008, Hastert worked with the Washington D.C.-based law firm Dickstein Shapiro as a lobbyist, a position he also resigned Thursday. The firm’s online biography of Hastert listed him as the co-leader of the firm’s Public Policy & Political Law Practice.
In it, Hastert listed as among his achievements his three terms serving in the Illinois General Assembly “where he spearheaded legislation on child abuse prevention, property tax reform, education excellence, and economic development.”
Politically, Hastert has been keeping a relatively low profile – appearing now and then on political shows – and making some endorsements, such as for Mitt Romney in 2012. He’s lost weight in recent years and battled with health issues, including after having gallbladder surgery.
A diabetic, Hastert sometimes walked with protective coverings on his feet to avoid developing foot sores.
Hastert’s son, Ethan, is a partner at the Mayer Brown law firm in Chicago and once worked as an aide in the office of former Vice President Dick Cheney. In 2010, he unsuccessfully ran for Congress, losing to U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Ill.
Known by all as Denny, the elder Hastert’s nickname was “the coach” as much for his approach to keeping his GOP team together as his high school coaching career.
Raised in Oswego, he worked at family restaurants before attending North Central College in Naperville, receiving his undergrad degree from Wheaton College in 1964 and picking up a master’s at Northern Illinois University.
Wheaton College now is the home of the J. Dennis Hastert Center for Economics, Government, and Public Policy.
As a high school teacher watching the local political scene, Hastert started his political career when he won a 1980 election to the Illinois General Assembly. He was elected to the House in 1986. He rose in leadership, becoming the chief deputy whip under former Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Tx., in 1994.
In a historic day on the House floor, Hastert locked in the votes to become speaker on Dec. 19, 1998, replacing Newt Gingrich, who decided to quit. On that Saturday – when the main business was supposed to be the impeachment of Clinton – Hastert swiftly got the backing to be speaker when Livingston, the Louisiana Republican who was in line to follow Gingrich, suddenly resigned in the wake of an affair.
~ Chicago Sun-Times