Federal officials say the Congressional bribery investigation now includes Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, based on information from convicted lobbyists who are now cooperating with the government.
Part of the investigation involves a letter Hastert wrote three years ago, urging the Secretary of the Interior to block a casino on an Indian reservation that would have competed with other tribes.
The other tribes were represented by convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff who reportedly has provided details of his dealings with Hastert as part of his plea agreement with the government.
The letter was written shortly after a fund-raiser for Hastert at a restaurant owned by Abramoff. Abramoff and his clients contributed more than $26,000 at the time.
The day Abramoff was indicted, Hastert denied any unlawful connection and said he would donate to charity any campaign contribution he had received from Abramoff and his clients. A spokesman for Speaker Hastert told ABC News, "We are not aware of this. The Speaker has a long history and a well-documented record of opposing Indian Reservation shopping for casino gaming purposes."
This week, Hastert has been outspoken in his criticism of the FBI for its raid on the office of another congressman under investigation, Democrat William Jefferson of Louisiana. "My opinion is that they took the wrong path, Hastert said of the FBI. "They need to back up, and we need to go from there." ABC News’ Rhonda Schwartz and Richard Esposito contributed to this report. Link: Click here to read Brian Ross’ latest report on the bribery investigation into Rep. Jefferson. Link: Click here to see the charges on Abramoff’s AmEx Bill. Link: Click here to check out the bribe menu of convicted Congressman Duke Cunningham. Link: Click here to read Brian Ross’ story on Abramoff accepting a plea bargain. Link: Click here to read Brian Ross’ report on "Delay’s Lavish Island Getaway" arranged by Abramoff.