- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 25, 2002

Rep. James A. Traficant Jr.'s colorful nine-term tenure in Congress ended yesterday when the House voted overwhelmingly to expel him for 10 federal felony convictions, including taking kickbacks from office staff and trading official favors for gifts.
The 61-year-old Ohio Democrat is just the second member to be expelled from the House since three expulsions during the Civil War of members suspected of conspiring with the Confederacy. His expulsion came on a 420-1 vote.Only Rep. Gary Condit, California Democrat, who was defeated in a primary for re-election after he was romantically linked with Chandra Levy, a government intern who was found slain, voted against expelling Traficant.
To the end, Traficant remained his flamboyant self with the colorful clothes, wild hairstyle and caustic rhetoric.
His first action upon taking the podium to defend himself was to ask for an additional 15 minutes to make his case which was granted.
He then delivered a rambling dissection of the charges against him, saying that one of the government's witnesses at the trial "lied through his teeth," that other witnesses later recanted or said they were pressured, and that the prosecution and judge hindered him in presenting the case he wanted.
"I'll go to jail, but I'll be damned if I'll be pressured by a government that pressured these witnesses to death to get a conviction on the No. 1 target," Traficant said.
A jury in federal district court in Cleveland found Traficant guilty of 10 felony counts, including bribery, filing false income tax returns, and taking kickbacks from his staff's salaries and from office expenses. Federal prosecutors have recommended that he serve 7 years when he is sentenced Tuesday.
The court conviction was reason enough for the House ethics committee last week to unanimously recommend that he be expelled on nine charges of misusing his public office. Yesterday, they made their case to the full House.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, the California Democrat who was part of the committee investigation, said they found "a pattern of tens of thousands of dollars that were delivered to Traficant in kickbacks and bribes."
The only appropriate response to such conduct, members said, is expulsion.
"It should take extraordinary wrongdoing to override the voters of a district," said Rep. Kenny Hulsof, Missouri Republican. "I believe this is one such case."

Still, some had questions. Rep. Steven C. LaTourette, Ohio Republican, said he was troubled by points raised by witnesses Traficant presented to the committee, who never testified at his criminal trial but who directly challenged the credibility of the federal case against him.
"What's the rush?" he said. "We can expel him just as easily in September as we can today."
But, on a 285-146 vote, the chamber rejected a bid by Mr. LaTourette, a former county prosecutor, to delay the vote until Sept. 4, when the House returns from the summer recess it begins at the end of this week.
Traficant has been a thorn in the side of his party for some time.
Democrats refused to give him any committee assignments after he voted for J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, to be speaker of the House for this Congress. Members are expected to vote for the candidate of their own party.
Traficant could always be counted on for a show. Majority Leader Dick Armey, Texas Republican, who served last week as chairman of a committee for the first time in his legislative career, said he found himself wishing it didn't conflict with Traficant's committee hearing so he could have watched more of the performance.
"When I write the book 'Characters I Knew in Congress,' he's going to be the first chapter," Mr. Armey said.
Traficant habitually punctuated his floor speeches by exclaiming "Beam me up" and frequently issued "noogies" to staffers and visitors.
Last night, Traficant asked members to let him stay.
"It isn't a matter of liking me. A lot of you don't like me," he said. "But I want your vote. I want 145 votes, and I want to be able to go up and fight the Justice Department and the IRS."
At one point he apologized for scathing comments he had made earlier about House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, Missouri Democrat, but added he'd probably have hit Mr. Gephardt had he been nearby at the time.
He blamed much of his predicament on a personal vendetta he said Clinton administration Attorney General Janet Reno has held against him since he called her a traitor for not further investigating particular donations to the Democratic National Committee.
"Janet Reno, if I don't go to jail, I'll be in Orlando August 15, and you aren't going to be elected to anything," he said, referring to her bid for governor of Florida.
After being warned a second time to refrain from profane language and not to mention other members by first name, Traficant responded, "As a fashion leader, it is tough for me at times to comport with rules."
Traficant also said he wished he could be in the House to vote on the proposals to create a Department of Homeland Security and offered some parting wisdom for his colleagues.
"Anybody who jumps the fence shouldn't be made a citizen, they should be thrown out," he said, urging that troops be stationed at the border.
Expulsions are effective immediately, and Traficant's office will be taken over by the House clerk, who will supervise a pared-down staff in handling constituent matters.
Ohio Gov. Bob Taft will set a date for an election to fill Traficant's seat.
Still, it may not be the end of Traficant's Washington career. He has already filed to run in the newly drawn 17th District and has promised to see his bid through even if he has to do so from jail.
"I am running as an independent, don't be surprised if I don't win behind bars," he said.

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