Tuesday, April 19, 2005


By now you know that Henry Hyde has announced that he will not be running again in 2006. And the initial reactions are up from Archpundit, OneMan and Rich at Capital Fax.

Hyde's 2004 opponent -- and Democratic front-runner -- Christine Cegelis posted her reaction to the announcement at the Daily Kos.

And as for myself, many things come to mind whenever I think of Henry Hyde...

I think of the phrase "Youthful Indiscretion" -- and the Salon article entitled "This hypocrite broke up my family." In that article, Fred Snodgrass revealed that Hyde carried on a five-year sexual relationship with his then-wife, Cherie, that shattered his family. At the time of the affair, the Snodgrass couple had three small children, two girls and a boy. Hyde was also married and the father of four sons.

Hyde admitted that he was involved with Cherie Snodgrass, and told Salon that the relationship ended after Hyde's wife found out about it. But Hank's former lover -- Cherie called him "Hank" -- said Hyde lied:
According to her grown daughter, Soskin said the affair continued for at least two and a half years after Hyde's wife, Jeanne, was told of the relationship.
"My mother is very mad about Henry Hyde's statement -- she thinks it belittles the importance of their relationship," said her daughter, who asked that her name not be published because of the media firestorm surrounding the story. "Hyde called it a 'youthful indiscretion,' like it was just a fling or something. What a laugh. My mother said it was a long-term relationship." ***

[I]n an interview with her hometown newspaper, the San Antonio Express-News, Soskin said Hyde also lied to her about his marital status during their affair. "I did not know he was married," she told the newspaper. "He portrayed himself as a single person, and I didn't bother to check or anything like that."

Soskin told her daughter that she knew Hyde was involved in at least one other adulterous relationship besides the one he had with her.
But I don't want to give the impression that Hank's legacy is nothing but sexual hypocrisy.

As this summary of the book "Henry Hyde's Moral Universe: Where More Than Time and Space are Warped" shows, Hyde was much more than just an adulterer:
In 1981, after stepping down from the House Banking Committee, Hyde went on the board of directors of Clyde Federal Savings and Loan, whose chairman was one of Hyde's many banking industry political contributors. Congress deregulated the savings and loan industry in 1982, and Clyde began dealing in risky financial options, participating in loans for luxury condos in Texas and buying certificates of deposit from a bank in the Cayman Islands, a financial center notorious for money laundering.

Hyde was not only aware of such deals but often made or seconded motions on the board to pursue them. By 1984, when Hyde left the board, it was clear to the directors from reports they received that the institution was failing, but Hyde and others on the board continued to abuse their positions, giving improper financial rewards to insiders and even allowing the institution to overcharge the government on servicing student loans.

In 1990, the party came to an end. The federal government put Clyde into receivership, and ultimately paid out $67 million to cover insured deposits -- more than the cost of bailing out Madison Guaranty, the thrift at the heart of Kenneth Starr's abortive Whitewater investigation. The Resolution Trust Corp. sued Hyde and other directors for $17.2 million in 1993. Four years later, without reaching the stage of full-scale pretrial investigation and taking of depositions, the government settled with the defendants for only $850,000 and made a special settlement exempting Hyde from paying anything.

Hyde, the only member of Congress sued for "gross negligence" in the failure of a savings and loan, was not cleared, as he has claimed. Rather, there's good reason to believe he used his political clout and refusal to settle as a way to escape payment and give the illusion that he was exonerated. Indeed, the presence of Hyde and two other prominent Republican members of Congress on the boards of Illinois savings and loans may have deterred serious investigation of the strategically important role in the national crisis played by the Illinois thrift industry, which worked in conjunction with the politically powerful industry lobbying group, the U.S. League of Savings Institutions, which was based in Chicago.

Though the lawsuit is now closed, the ethical questions about Hyde's behavior -- including the fundamental conflict of interest of a member of Congress sitting on the board of a federally regulated financial institution -- remain open. So should the question of how he was granted such a special deal.
In closing, I'll borrow a line from Robert Novak who, in yesterday's Sun-Times column, called Hyde "a prominent Catholic layman known for telling the truth."

Let there be no doubt -- Henry Hyde is a prominent Catholic layman.

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