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Lawmakers' Profits Are Scrutinized
Hastert's attorney, J. Randolph Evans, fired off a letter to the Sunlight Foundation last week, demanding "that the false, libelous and defamatory matter be immediately withdrawn and corrected." In his letter, Evans said that asserting that a new road project would have an impact on land values more than 5 1/2 miles away "would be like complaining about a purchase in Alexandria, Virginia, based on renovations at the Capitol."
Bill Allison, who uncovered the matter for the Sunlight Foundation, has stood by his findings. And Jan Strasma, chairman of Citizens Against the Sprawlway, which has been fighting the Prairie Parkway, disputes Evans's argument. Home buyers are not looking to live next to a highway, he said. They just want easy access to a nearby transportation corridor.
Ashdown, of Taxpapers for Common Sense, who has chronicled Hastert's efforts to secure the parkway funding, also remains suspicious.
"The facts are the facts," he said, "and the facts are, he made a lot of money off this deal, and he was the one who got this earmark."
The foundation's allegation is only the latest in a series of charges. Last year, Calvert, the California Republican congressman, and a business partner bought a four-acre parcel near the March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County, Calif., for $550,000. He then secured $8 million for a planned freeway interchange 16 miles away, an additional $1.5 million to support commercial development around the airfield, and sold the property less than a year later for almost $1 million.
Calvert spokesman Bob Carretta pointed to the findings of a Los Angeles-based watchdog group that concluded that Calvert's profit was in line with the rise in market values in the area.
Miller, the other California Republican, helped secure $1.28 million in last year's highway bill for street improvements near a planned residential and commercial development in Diamond Bar, Calif., that he co-owns with a top campaign contributor.
Kevin McKee, a Miller spokesman, said the road improvement was a mile away from the development and had been designated by Diamond Bar officials as their top priority.