A federal appeals court Friday upheld the conviction of former Rep. George V. Hansen (R-Ida.), who was sentenced to five to 15 months in prison for filing false documents with Congress.
Hansen, who had served seven terms in the House, was convicted in April, 1984, of violating the 1978 ethics law by omitting mention of loans and of profits from the sale of silver contracts and other transactions, some involving Texas billionaire Nelson Bunker Hunt. He has remained free pending appeal.
Hansen failed to disclose an $87,475 profit that his wife, Connie, made in trading silver futures with the help of Hunt, a $50,000 bank loan to Connie Hansen that was guaranteed by Hunt, a $61,503 personal loan from Hunt to Connie Hansen, and $135,000 in personal loans to the congressman from three Virginia men, John Meade Jr., Carl McAfee and Odell Rogers.
Hansen argued in his appeal that the Ethics in Government Act, under which he was convicted, does not contain any criminal penalties. "The last thing Congress wanted to do" was send members to jail, he said.
U.S. Judge Antonin Scalia, in a 20-page opinion for the three-member court, disagreed:
"It was not necessary for the Congress that enacted the EIGA to authorize criminal punishment, for the authorization had been conferred by an earlier Congress, and remained on the statute books," Scalia wrote. "The precise issue is whether the Congress that enacted the EIGA precluded the criminal sanctions that would otherwise attach."
Hansen had argued that because members of Congress were not obligated to make financial disclosures before the ethics law was adopted, there was no pre-existing criminal liability to repeal.