On July 24, the House of Representatives voted 420-1 to oust James Traficant (D-OH). Mr. Traficant has been asked repeatedly by other members of Congress to resign in light of his April convictions on federal charges of bribery, racketeering, and tax evasion, but the colorful Congressman held his ground to the bitter end. Last week, the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct found him guilty of nine charges of ethics violations and recommended the vote for expulsion. Only Representative Gary Condit (D-CA) voted against Mr. Traficant's removal from office.
The tax evasion charges are due to a failure to report and pay taxes on income from bribery schemes for which Mr. Traficant was convicted.
Mr. Traficant has maintained his innocence in spite of his conviction. He claims that members of the Internal Revenue Service and the Treasury Department have had a personal vendetta against him because of legislation he sponsored that curtailed their power. Mr. Traficant was instrumental in the passage of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights which protects taxpayers from abusive behavior on the part of the Internal Revenue Service. He also co-authored legislation in 1999 to abolish the Internal Revenue Service and replace the federal income tax with a national sales tax.
Mr. Traficant joins an elite group of only five members of the House of Representatives who have been expelled. Three were expelled after being found guilty of supporting the Confederacy during the Civil War, and the fourth, Michael Myers (D-PA), was expelled after being filmed accepting money during the 1980 Abscam sting operation.
The House Webmaster wasted no time in expelling Mr. Traficant from the federal Web site. Both Mr. Traficant's Congressional home page and the House of Representatives roster show he has been removed from office. Mr. Traficant's home district in northeastern Ohio, however, is not moving him out so quickly.
Claiming a special election would cost approximately $800,000, money the district doesn't have to spare, Ohio Governor Bob Taft said there will be no special election to replace Mr. Traficant for the short amount of time remaining on his term. Instead, Mr. Traficant's constituents will be served by the existing staff, which will remain in place for now and be overseen by an Administrative Committee chaired by Representative Bob Ney, (R-OH).
Meanwhile, Mr. Traficant, an 18-year veteran of the House, has declared he will be the first member of Congress in modern times to be re-elected from a prison cell. Mr. Traficant, who has spoken of leaving the Democratic party in the past, will appear as an Independent on the fall ballot. Political leaders in northeastern Ohio have indicated that Mr. Traficant's popularity is high enough that if the election were to be held today, they believe he would win.