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Colorful former Idaho Congressman George Hansen dies at 83

Colorful former Idaho Congressman George Hansen, who served seven terms in the U.S. House, ran unsuccessfully for the Senate three times, and also served time in federal prison, died Thursday in a Pocatello hospital at the age of 83. Idaho Statesman reporter Rocky Barker has a full report here. Hansen is survived by five children, 10 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

An Idaho political story extraordinaire

The recent Idaho Supreme Court decision that brought former seven-term Idaho Congressman George Hansen back into the news - he lost an appeal to get out of repaying hundreds of thousands of dollars to an Idaho couple he swindled in an investment scheme - recalled a remarkable chapter in Idaho’s political history. The former congressman, now 79, retired and living with wife Connie in Pocatello, served time in federal prison for a multimillion-dollar check kiting scheme in the 1990s, after previously going to federal prison for four counts of violating federal ethics laws by falsifying financial disclosure forms while serving in Congress. A crusading congressman who railed against the Internal Revenue Service and made a unilateral trip to Iran in an unsuccessful attempt to negotiate for the freedom of American hostages, Hansen has long contended that the government was out to get him. In 1984, seven months after his conviction on the ethics charges - which later was overturned by a 1995 U.S. Supreme Court decision that modified the law - Hansen narrowly lost his last re-election bid by just 170 votes.

“George Hansen was one of those guys - a really engaging personality, a very effective campaigner, and had some loyalists to the very end despite his financial difficulties and legal problems,” said Boise State University political scientist emeritus Jim Weatherby. Hansen, the only sitting congressman ever convicted under the 1978 Ethics in Government Act, lost one of the closest congressional elections in state history at a time when he was on his way to prison. Nine years later, when U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge sentenced Hansen to four years in prison for 45 counts of bank fraud in 1993, the judge said he was stunned that many of Hansen’s victims still supported him - even though they were owed hundreds of thousands of dollars. “I’ve never seen that kind of blind allegiance,” the judge declared.

Hansen, a Republican, was first elected to Idaho’s 2nd District congressional seat in 1964 and served two terms, before losing a challenge to Democratic Sen. Frank Church. He won election to the House seat again in 1974, and won re-election four times before losing to Democrat Richard Stallings in 1984. Hansen’s wife, Connie, ran for the seat in 1986, but came in second in a five-way GOP primary, losing to Idaho Falls Sen. Mel Richardson. Stallings held the seat until he left it in 1992 to run for the U.S. Senate, losing to Republican Dirk Kempthorne, who later served as Idaho’s governor.

Former Congressman George Hansen loses Idaho Supreme Court appeal

Former seven-term Idaho Congressman George Hansen has lost an appeal to the Idaho Supreme Court to get out of repaying hundreds of thousands of dollars to an Idaho couple he swindled in a investment scheme. Hansen was first ordered to repay Ann and the late James Meyers $300,000 back in 1993, when Hansen was serving a federal prison sentence for securities fraud, according to the court decision. He maintained he didn’t remember being served, and also questioned whether he received proper notice of subsequent default judgments against him in the case. In 2006, he filed two pro se motions resisting an order in the case, but then claimed he didn’t know about the default judgment until 2007, when he got an attorney. He also claimed in his appeal that he was “without substantial assets” to pay the judgment.

In a unanimous opinion authored by Justice Warren Jones, the high court wrote, “Hansen’s argument strangely assumes that he was unaware of his own assets until 2007. Moreover, there is no reason why the judgment would become inequitable simply because the judgment debtor cannot afford to pay it.” The court also found, “Hansen personally received his initial service of process and also a mailed notice of the Entry of Default but did nothing.” The original default judgment of $299,350, with interest, has swelled to a judgment of $732,927.

The high court wrote, “Although Hansen characterized the investment as a personal loan to him, Meyers and her late husband invested nearly $300,000 in Ideal Consultants, what they believed was a legitimate attempt to build a revenue-generating program known as the Congressional Accountability Project. This was a fraudulent commercial transaction.” The court awarded costs and attorney fees for the appeal to Meyers. You can read the court’s decision here. Hansen, a Republican, was first elected to Idaho’s 2nd District congressional seat in 1964 and served two terms, before losing a challenge to Democratic Sen. Frank Church. He won election to the House seat again in 1974, and won re-election four times before losing to Democrat Richard Stallings in 1984.

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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