Time: Wed Dec 03 08:00:15 1997
From: Paul Andrew Mitchell [address in tool bar]
Subject: SLS: Former 7-Term Congressman Takes Aim at Reno's Justice (fwd)
Bcc: sls

>November 30, 1997
>Hansen Takes Aim at Reno's Justice 
>           POCATELLO, Idaho -- At a time when other former
>           seven-term congressmen are counting strokes on the golf
>           course, George Hansen is counting his teeth. He's missing
>           24 from his three stints in prison, along with all his
>           toenails.
>           Hansen doesn't sit on any corporation's board of directors
>           or manage his investments from a downtown suite. He lives
>           in a rented Pocatello apartment and drives a leased white
>           Honda. 
>           He doesn't hang out with congressional cronies or lionize his
>           career. Indeed, he's lucky if some of his former colleagues
>           even return his calls. 
>           A lot of people have forgotten about George Hansen -- the
>           flamboyant former Idaho congressman whose rocky
>           adventures with foreign policy, the Internal Revenue
>           Service, campaign finance and the federal prison system
>           dominated political headlines in the Intermountain West for
>           most of the 1980s. 
>           But he's back -- and leading a Utah-based group seeking an
>           investigation into the death of federal prisoner Kenneth
>           Trentadue. On the political landscape of the Intermountain
>           West, few characters stand out like George Vernon Hansen,
>           a Mormon kid from Tetonia, Idaho, who climbed the ladder
>           of political power only to plunge in a belly-flop of scandal,
>           financial ruin and imprisonment. 
>           He was George the Dragon Slayer, a moniker loyal
>           followers bestowed for his ceaseless battles with the IRS,
>           Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the
>           Immigration and Naturalization Service on behalf of
>           ``ordinary people.'' 
>           He was Poor Old Lonesome George, a title he gave himself
>           in a bawling 1984 speech on the House floor before he was
>           reprimanded for filing false financial disclosure reports. 
>           He was Globetrotting George, who went to Iran twice without
>           authorization in the late '70s to negotiate the release
>           of American hostages. He went to Bolivia to try to break a
>           constituent's son out of prison. He went to Nicaragua to tell
>           dictator Antonio Somoza that he had the ``full support'' of
>           the United States. He went to Taiwan and promised leaders
>           they would get equipment to complete their ``atomic
>           program.'' And he went to Kuwait after the 1992 invasion
>           by Iraq and declared the United States was ``overreacting.'' 
>           He was Unsinkable George, winning re-election in the face
>           of scandals that would have torpedoed the most adept
>           politician. Even when he was on the doorstep of a prison
>           cell, Hansen came only 170 votes short of keeping his
>           congressional seat. 
>           And he was Jailhouse George, serving four years in prison
>           for two separate crimes -- one that later turned out to be an
>           illegal conviction. In prison he went on hunger strikes, grew
>           an ``AIDS beard'' to protest the sharing of razors among
>           inmates, claimed he was repeatedly denied dental care, got
>           recurring bursitis from having his legs shackled all the time,
>           and pulled his own toenails out by the roots to avoid the
>           pain of hangnails from too-small prison-issue shoes. 
>           Back in Action: Although 67 years old now, Hansen
>           remains a Great Dane of a man with a bearpaw handshake
>           and a 6-foot-6 frame that, while never returning to his
>           pre-incarceration fighting weight of 330 pounds, would still
>           serve an offensive lineman well. 
>           He is only now emerging from a self-imposed hibernation, a
>           purposeful attempt to stay out of the media spotlight. His
>           release from prison last year after serving three years for
>           bank fraud, as well as the Supreme Court vindication that
>           he was falsely convicted on ethics charges a dozen years
>           ago, have all but been ignored in the mainstream news
>           media where he once made headlines monthly. 
>           ``It's been a real recess, but I've done it because I'm not
>           running for anything and I don't need to read a news story
>           to know who I am,'' Hansen says. ``I've had a little calm
>           because I've stayed out of these things.'' 
>           At least until now. His legendary firebrand demeanor may
>           be more like damp gunpowder today, but Hansen is back to
>           championing his trademark cause that made him and broke
>           him: An oppressive and excessive federal government
>           threatens us all. 
>           As head of his latest activist group -- the Salt Lake
>           City-based ``U.S. Citizens Human Rights Commission'' --
>           Hansen has placed 800 billboards and bus signs across the
>           country demanding justice in the 1995 death of Trentadue.
>           The U.S. Department of Justice maintains Trentadue, while
>           awaiting a parole hearing, committed suicide by hanging
>           himself from an air vent in an isolation cell in Oklahoma
>           City. 
>           The condition of Trentadue's battered body -- soaked with
>           blood and what appeared to be boot footprints and
>           high-voltage stun gun burns on his face -- has led
>           Oklahoma's medical examiner and others to conclude
>           Trentadue was ``very likely'' murdered by prison guards. 
>           Hansen's stark billboards in California, Oklahoma and
>           Washington, D.C., offer a $10,000 reward for information
>           plus harangue Atty. Gen. Janet Reno for perpetrating a
>           cover-up. 
>           ``Mr. Hansen's agenda is to expose and clean up the Justice
>           Department, and he sees this case as one of the most
>           striking examples of what's been going on,'' says Salt Lake
>           City attorney Jesse Trentadue, who has brought suit over
>           his brother's suspicious death. ``He wants justice for my
>           brother, and he has been awfully supportive of our efforts.
>           We wouldn't have gotten as far as we have without
>           George's help.'' 
>           Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has announced hearings on the
>           Trentadue case, and Oklahoma County District Attorney
>           Bob Macy vows to convene a grand jury. The national
>           news media have begun picking up the story: The latest
>           issue of GQ magazine features a detailed investigation into
>           the federal government's alleged cover-up of the murder. 
>           Hansen will be satisfied at nothing less than ``bringing down
>           the Justice Department and arresting the attorney general.''
>           Vintage George the Dragonslayer, he knows, but he says
>           this case cries out. 
>           ``I've always tried to stay on the side of the angels and the
>           right side of the law,'' Hansen says. ``My wife [Connie] was
>           asking if I'm cutting this one close, and I told her I'm on the
>           side of Sen. Hatch and the side of the district attorney and
>           I'm not on the side of a bunch of brutes and thugs who
>           killed a man.'' 
>           Hansen is no stranger to vitriolic attacks on federal agencies.
>           In the late 1970s he published To Harass Our People, a
>           scathing indictment of the IRS that has sold, according to
>           Hansen, a million copies. The book came out shortly after a
>           newspaper revealed Hansen had been delinquent filing his
>           income-tax returns seven times between 1966 and 1975. 
>           ``George has always been a giant battleship rowing out into
>           sub-infested waters without a destroyer escort,'' says John
>           Runft, the Boise attorney who has represented Hansen off
>           and on for the past 25 years. ``He fails to file his taxes on
>           time, so he attacks the IRS. In his heart, he's a good man,
>           but he doesn't watch out when he's on the offense. When
>           he's on defense, he's always good.'' 
>           The tales of Hansen's misdeeds are only matched by the
>           stories of his good deeds. He once claimed congressional
>           immunity when he got a speeding ticket. He once woke up
>           Pentagon brass in the middle of the night to demand they
>           release the body of an Air Force pilot killed in a crash to
>           the man's Idaho family. 
>           He once yelled at fellow House members, who were
>           rebuking him for not reporting more than $300,000 in loans
>           and commodity profits from a Texas tycoon, ``You ought
>           to pay me, not fine me!'' And he once tracked down a
>           mother's son who had disappeared after World War II and
>           was missing for 35 years, finding the man in Japan. 
>           ``Helping constituents is how I survived when everybody
>           was out to get my scalp,'' Hansen says today. ``I always felt
>           if a guy called me about his neighbor's barking dog, then
>           government wasn't working for him and he didn't know
>           what to do. I could have said, like most people, `Call the
>           damn mayor,' but instead I called the mayor myself.'' 
>           Hansen has an uncanny ability to connect with regular
>           people. They have problems, he has problems. Rapscallion
>           or raconteur, folks like him. 
>           ``Here's this great big guy who wraps himself around
>           people's shoulders, and he just never forgets a name,'' says
>           Perry Swisher, a former newspaper editor, public-utilities
>           commissioner and Idaho's resident political curmudgeon.
>           ``George has always been a rank opportunist. If there was a
>           chance to steal or mislead big time, George wasn't going to
>           pass it up. But he saw himself like some comic book hero,
>           Superman or Batman or Spiderman.'' 
>           Man of the People: His re-election squeakers
>           notwithstanding, perhaps the most stunning example of the
>           loyalty Hansen engenders among his southeastern Idaho
>           followers came at his 1992 Boise bank-fraud trial. After his
>           release from prison the first time, Hansen and an associate
>           were convicted of running an elaborate multimillion-dollar
>           check-kiting and bank-fraud scheme. Hansen took loans
>           from more than 180 people, promising big returns, yet
>           eventually wound up bankrupt and owing creditors $16
>           million. 
>           At trial, nearly 100 of the supposed victims of Hansen's
>           deception presented affadavits and petitions telling the
>           judge and prosecutors to lay off George. 
>           ``Now these were not dumb farmer types, but business
>           people who testified George was their political champion
>           and if he could pay back the loans, fine, if not, that was
>           fine too,'' says Runft, who represented Hansen in the 
>           criminal trial. 
>           U.S. District Court Judge Edward Lodge was flabbergasted.
>           ``The Court has never been in this predicament in its life,''
>           Lodge said at the sentencing hearing. ``Where people that
>           are owed hundreds of thousands of dollars have no idea
>           what they are owed. That they are willing to testify under
>           oath that they are willing to eat those losses. They feel
>           it's nobody's business the manner in which they make their
>           loans on a personal-loan basis. That they were not
>           defrauded. And they feel that it is inappropriate for the
>           court to consider them as victims.'' 
>           Lodge sentenced Hansen to 4 years in prison, less than half
>           what federal sentencing guidelines called for, because of the
>           mitigating circumstances. 
>           A funny thing happened while Hansen was again behind
>           bars. In 1984, he had become the first congressman ever
>           convicted under the Ethics in Government Act and had
>           done two six-month stints in prison in 1986 and 1987 as a
>           result. 
>           In May 1995, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on an obscure
>           Michigan case, Hubbard vs. U.S., finding that the Ethics In
>           Government Act applied only to the Executive Branch, not
>           members of Congress. 
>           The Supreme Court ruling was supreme vindication for
>           Hansen, who had sworn all along the law was being
>           misapplied to members of Congress. Because of the year he
>           had served under the now-vacated conviction, Hansen was
>           released from prison on the bank fraud charge a year early,
>           gaining freedom in March last year. 
>           The government returned his $40,000 fine with interest,
>           restored his federal pension and said, ``Sorry.'' 
>           Hardly anyone noticed. 
>           ``With all the high drama that had accompanied his career,
>           there was an absolute boycott of any news about George
>           being vindicated or being released from prison,'' Runft says.
>           Hansen says if he hadn't been falsely convicted on the
>           ethics charges, he never would have wound up involved in
>           the bank fraud. Runft calls that ``George's
>           Devil-made-me-do-it'' defense. 
>           Still, the Idaho congressional delegation is looking into
>           sponsoring ``private legislation'' to force the federal
>           government to financially compensate Hansen, who sold his
>           homes in Idaho and Virginia and remains in debt over legal
>           bills. Hansen would like Congress also to reverse its 1984
>           vote to reprimand him, a move that ``destroyed'' his
>           political career. 
>           ``There's no question George Hansen was politically
>           maltreated,'' says Runft. ``If not for the conviction, he
>           probably would have won that 1984 election. It's like that
>           saying: `The saddest words of tongue and pen are justly
>           these: It might have been.' '' 
>           While Hansen chuckles that some southeastern Idaho folks
>           want him to run for governor, he has no plans for a political
>           resurrection. 
>           ``Around my house, my wife tells me, `If you run for
>           anything again, it'll be for your life,' '' Hansen smiles.
>           ``The trouble is, politics anymore is for the rich. I used 
>           to think you could offset it with some hard work and ingenuity,
>           but things have changed.'' 
>           And time has passed. He would never admit it, but George
>           the Dragonslayer may not have much more fight left in him.
>           ``People like me can thank God George is 67, because if he
>           was 37 he would be a force to be reckoned with in this age
>           of Rush Limbaughs and militias,'' says Swisher. ``It
>           personally p---es me off, because I'm 74, that when people
>           reach a certain age, they don't have the vocabulary of
>           leadership. Old f--ts cannot beat the drum.'' 

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