Three weeks ago, House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced that neither Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) nor Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) would be the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee in the 110th Congress. The elephant in the room during the weeks of intense speculation before the announcement was Hastings' controversial past.
To properly address the controversy surrounding Hastings, we must go all the way back to 1981; the year Jimmy Carter left the White House and Sandra Day O’Connor was nominated to the Supreme Court. In that year, Hastings, serving as a federal judge in the Southern District of Florida (he was first appointed in 1979), was indicted for soliciting a bribe from two defendants convicted of robbery in his court. Specifically, the alleged briber promised Hastings $150,000 if he kept the defendants out of prison and returned to them the funds they stole. The prosecution’s key piece of evidence was a transcript from a phone conversation (obtained through a wiretap) between Hastings and his alleged co-conspirator, William Borders. Hastings is heard saying:
"I've drafted all those ah, ah, letters, ah, for him, and everything's okay. The only thing I was concerned with was, did you hear if, ah, hear from him after we talked?"