George Hansen, a former Idaho Republican congressman, died Thursday of natural causes at a medical center in Pocatello, Cornelison Funeral Home said. He was 83.
Known for his colorful antics as well as his time in federal prison, Hansen represented Idaho’s 2nd Congressional District for a total of seven terms in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.
“He believed in the (U.S.) Constitution, and believed in individual liberty,” said Bill Hansen of his father. “When he was in office, he was always trying to make sure government was accountable to people, to make sure the government served the people and not people serving the government.”
In 1979, Hansen went to Iran to attempt to negotiate a deal during the hostage crisis, angering the Carter administration. He was the only member of Congress to visit Iran during the 444-day crisis.
In 1984, Hansen became the first congressman convicted under the Ethics in Government Act for filing false financial disclosure statements, serving two six-month stints in federal prison. The U.S. Supreme Court vacated his conviction 10 years later after finding fault with the act.
In 1993, Hansen was convicted of 45 counts of bank fraud for a multimillion dollar check-kiting scheme. Despite the conviction, nearly 100 of his alleged victims submitted affidavits to the judge saying they didn’t want Hansen sentenced and he was still considered their political champion.
This prompted U.S. District Judge Ed Lodge to say at the time, “I’ve never seen that kind of blind allegiance.”
He earned the nickname “George the Dragon Slayer” for his stance against federal government overreach and persistent criticism of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Internal Revenue Service. In 1980, he wrote a book, “To Harass Our People” about IRS abusing its power.
“When he took on government, it was always to help other people while the government was standing by and doing nothing,” Bill Hansen said.
Hansen’s wife, Connie, died in 2013.
Hansen is survived by five children, 10 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.