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Hansen loses legal fight

Tue., Dec. 1, 2009

Supreme Court rejects ex-lawmaker’s appeal

BOISE – 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 an investment scheme.

“We were of course disappointed with the result,” said Hansen’s Boise attorney, John Runft.

Hansen, now 79, retired and living in Pocatello, served time in federal prison for a multimillion-dollar check-kiting scheme in the 1990s, after 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 was overturned by a 1995 U.S. Supreme Court decision that modified the law – Hansen lost his last re-election bid by 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.

In the current case, Hansen was first ordered to repay Ann and the late James Meyers $300,000 in 1993, when he was serving a federal prison sentence for securities fraud. The amount has grown to more than $700,000 because of compounding interest.

Hansen maintained he didn’t remember being served notice of the repayment order. He also questioned whether he received proper notice of subsequent default judgments against him in the case.

“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,” Justice Warren Jones wrote in the unanimous Idaho Supreme Court decision. “This was a fraudulent commercial transaction.”

In 2006, Hansen filed two 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, according to court documents.

In its decision, the high court found that “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 court awarded costs and attorney fees for the appeal to Meyers.

Hansen, a Republican, lost his seat to Democrat Richard Stallings in 1984. His wife, Connie Hansen, 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 in 1992 to run for the U.S. Senate, losing to Republican Dirk Kempthorne, who later served as Idaho’s governor.

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