When everything – even trivial transgressions – can become a serious felony, it empowers law enforcement to punish whomever they want. It’s a key reason they are able to basically use arrest and prosecution powers to control and punish minority populations in the U.S. The arrest and destruction of Eliot Spitzer for prostitution was accomplished through the same type of detection system and charges being used against Hastert.
Turning someone into a felon and putting them into prison for years, or even threatening to do so, is one of the most repressive things a government can do to its citizens. Only serious acts of wrongdoing should enable that. The “past misconduct” in which Hastert allegedly engaged may qualify, but that’s not part of his charges. The acts for which he has been charged – hiding withdrawals and lying to the FBI about why he wanted that money – do not qualify.