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Hastert campaign won't report controversial contribution
By James Fuller | Daily Herald Staff

Congressional candidate Ethan Hastert


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Published: 1/21/2010 12:25 AM

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Call it a simple favor for a friend. Call it an in-kind contribution.

Whatever it's labeled, it won't be found on Ethan Hastert's campaign contribution filings, though Federal Election Commission rules raise questions about whether it should have been reported.

Back when Ethan Hastert first announced his Republican bid for the 14th Congressional District, Brad Hahn of Burnham Strategies offered to put together a news release and list his phone number as a media contact for the initial announcement.

Hahn is also a friend, and employee of Ethan Hastert's father, Dennis Hastert. The former Republican House speaker pays Burnham Strategies about $2,000 per month to handle communications for him. Hastert receives $40,000 a month in taxpayer dollars to maintain an office and cover his expenses, a perk offered former speakers for five years under federal law.

So when Hahn wrote the news release, he said he did it because he knew Ethan and supported him. It wasn't to get paid.

"It was a one-page news release," Hahn said. "I wouldn't even know what to charge."

So he didn't charge anything. Hahn and Burnham Strategies initially thought they might help Ethan Hastert run his Congressional campaign, but instead opted to work full-time on Bob Schillerstrom's run for governor. Hahn said the relationship ended with one news release and fielding a couple media calls.

But that may be enough to qualify the service as an in-kind contribution.

FEC Spokeswoman Julia Queen said the law requires "goods and services" provided to a campaign for free or at a discount need to be disclosed in campaign finance reports. Services do include consulting and media relations - any work a company or person specializes in and normally charges for.

That is different from campaign volunteers, who might lick envelopes or make calls, because they don't make a living off that work.

"They are not specialized in the work; they are just giving up their time," Queen said of volunteers.

Hahn does typically charge a fee to write a news release and field media calls in his everyday profession.

Hastert campaign spokesman Andrew Nelms said they don't see the need to report Hahn's work in their campaign contribution disclosures.

"Brad just did that one news release in the very first days of the campaign," Nelms said. "There's never been any work done since. It took him probably 10 minutes. He's never done any other work for us."

Daily Herald Politics and Projects Editor Joseph Ryan contributed to this story.