D. LOWELL JENSEN, former district attorney of Oakland, Calif., has been assistant attorney general in charge of the criminal division of the Justice Department since the Reagan administration came to power. This spring the president nominated Mr. Jensen to a higher position--associate attorney general. On June 16 the Judiciary Committee unanimously reported his nomination to the full Senate, where no action has been taken to confirm him. Why?
Just before the July 4th recess an attempt was made to bring up the Jensen nomination for a vote. Objection was heard from Sen. Steven Symms (R-Idaho) and the matter was set aside. The senator has placed a "hold" on the nomination, which means that he is, at least temporarily, preventing a vote. Sen. Symms frankly admits that he is stalling this vote because he has questions concerning the indictment of his colleague, Rep. George Hansen of Idaho, on federal charges of filing false financial disclosure statements.
Rep. Hansen is no stranger to controversy. In 1975 he pleaded guilty to two counts of violating campaign laws and was fined $2,000. Mr. Hansen's recent indictment charges that he filed false financial disclosure statements with the House Ethics Committee. The statements, it is alleged, omitted four large transactions--a total of $135,000 in personal loans from three Virginians, an $87,475 profit on silver contracts made in two days in 1979, a $61,503.42 personal loan to the Hansens made by Texas billionaire Nelson Bunker Hunt and a $50,000 loan that was guaranteed by Mr. Hunt. Mr. Hansen is the first member of Congress to be indicted for this kind of falsification of federal records and claims that his is a case of selective prosecution. In addition to denying the allegations, he argues that only civil penalties attach to false disclosure filings, but the government invokes a criminal statute generally prohibiting false statements made to government agencies.
Now Sen. Symms is holding up the Jensen nomination because he has some questions about his friend's case. Did he ask to appear at the Judiciary Committee hearing to present those questions in public? No. Did he ask a colleague on the committee to question the nominee on his behalf? No. Does he believe it proper to hold up the nomination because of a criminal case against a colleague now pending in the courts? Apparently he does. Others will be forgiven for believing the tactic looks like an attempt to harass a government official who is enforcing the law and to influence the government's prosecution of this case.