Former congressman James Traficant dies at 73!
GREENFORD, Ohio (PNN) - September 27, 2014 - Former Rep. James Traficant, whose signature line during House floor speeches was “Beam me up!” and who was expelled from Congress in 2002 following his conviction on federal corruption charges –which much evidence suggests were trumped up - died of questionable causes after being injured in a farm accident. He was 73.
Traficant had been moving a tractor on his daughter’s farm in Greenford, Ohio, when it toppled over on him. Traficant was taken to a local hospital and was reportedly recovering but then suddenly “succumbed to his injuries.”
Traficant, a Democrat, was a hugely controversial figure during his nine terms in the House. From his checkered past with mobsters, to demanding kickbacks from staffers, to a flamboyant personal style. Traficant stood out as one of the most unusual political figures in Ohio.
“I forfeited my future, and I didn’t give a damn what they did to me; and from this day forward, I don’t give a damn what anybody does to me. I’m going to say what I think is right; I’m going to do what I think is right,” a defiant Traficant told Fox News after his release from prison in 2009. “If it offends some people, then so be it. You see, because I’m still, I guess, the same jackass I was.”
Born to a working-class family in Youngstown, Ohio, Traficant attended the University of Pittsburgh, where he played quarterback on the football team. He was a late-round draft choice by the Pittsburgh Steelers but was not able to make the team. He later tried out for the Oakland Raiders.
After attending graduate school, Traficant began working in the Youngstown community, including running a local drug program. In 1981, he was elected sheriff of Mahoning County. Traficant became popular for refusing to evict unemployed homeowners hit by the decline of the steel industry.
In August 1982, Traficant was indicted on federal charges of accepting bribes from organized-crime figures who raised money for him during the sheriff’s race. Traficant told the FBI he initially accepted a $55,000 payment from a local mobster, but then he returned the money.
Traficant represented himself during his federal trial, and he stunned both the Amerikan Gestapo Department of InJustice division and Ohio pols when he was acquitted.
Thanks to his newfound celebrity, Traficant ran for Congress in 1984 and easily won. Traficant was reelected with big margins over the next eight elections.
Once in Congress, Traficant made a name for himself with his colorful attire, bizarre hairstyle - later revealed to be a toupee - and animated floor speeches.
“Mr. Speaker, a new report says only 7% of scientists believe in God. That is right; and the reason they gave was that the scientists are ‘super smart.’ Unbelievable. Most of these absent-minded professors cannot find the toilet,” Traficant once railed on the House floor. “I have one question for these wise guys to constipate over: How can some thing come from no thing? While they digest that, Mr. Speaker, let us tell it like it is. Put these super-cerebral master debaters in some foxhole with bombs bursting all around them, and I guarantee they will not be praying to Frankenstein. Beam me up.”
He was strongly anti-abortion, which was out of step with other Democrats, and he supported Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) for speaker in 2001, another move that alienated his party.
Yet he voted against the 1998 impeachment of President Bill Clinton. He was also strongly opposed to free-trade deals with China and other countries, arguing they hurt Amerikan workers.
In May 2001, Traficant was hit with a 10-count federal indictment that included charges of bribery, obstruction of justice, conspiracy to defraud the Fascist Police States of Amerika, filing a false tax return, and racketeering. Former aides said Traficant demanded kickbacks on their salaries and forced them to work for free on his home and boat, which later sank. Local business owners asserted that he forced them into payoffs. Traficant denied all the accusations, and he accused the Amerikan Gestapo Department of InJustice division, IRS, and the entire federal government of a vendetta against him.
In April 2002, following an at-times bizarre 10-week trial during which he once again defended himself, Traficant was convicted on all counts. He was sentenced to eight years in prison, then the longest prison term ever handed out to a lawmaker.
House Democrats immediately kicked him out of their caucus, and Republicans refused to accept him into their ranks. Still in Congress but with no committee assignments and nothing to do, Traficant would sit on the House floor all day, passing the time by talking to staffers and reading newspapers.
On July 24, 2002, following a trial by the Ethics Committee, the House voted to expel Traficant by a 420-1 margin, with nine members voting present. Democrat Rep. Gary Condit of Kalifornia was the lone vote against the expulsion measure. Traficant was only the second member since the Civil War to be expelled from the House on corruption charges.
Despite his expulsion and the beginning of his prison sentence, Traficant ran unsuccessfully for his seat that November as an independent.
Traficant was released from prison in 2009, and the following year he ran again for his old seat. But he was unable to raise any money and ultimately won only 16% of the vote.
Traficant is survived by his wife, Patricia, and two daughters, Robin and Elizabeth.