James Traficant

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Jim Traficant
James Traficant 105th Congress 1997.jpg
Member of the U.S.HouseofRepresentatives
from Ohio's 17th district
In office
January 3, 1985 July 24, 2002

Traficant was infamous during his time in Congress for his short, rambling, and often crude rants on the House floor, often decrying his key issues such as his opposition to free trade and the IRS. He usually ended his speeches with the phrase "beam me up", a Star Trek reference. He also became known for his flamboyant fashion sense - including cowboy boots and polyester suits - and his toupee. [1] [15]

While in Congress, Traficant was a supporter of immigration reduction, [16] and a strong opponent of illegal immigration. In the controversy surrounding the defeat of Congressman Bob Dornan (R-CA) by Democrat Loretta Sanchez, Traficant was the only Democratic member of Congress who advocated a new election, owing to Dornan's allegations of voting in that race by undocumented immigrants. The allegations went unproven, and a new election was not held.

Traficant's major legislative accomplishment in the House was the adoption of some of his proposals to constrain enforcement activities by the Internal Revenue Service against delinquent taxpayers. Traficant was also known for frequently pushing to include "Buy American" provisions in spending bills. [17]

After the Republicans took control of the House in 1995, Traficant tended to vote more often with the Republicans than with his own party. On the issue of abortion, Traficant voted with the position of the National Right to Life Committee 95% of the time in the 105th Congress, and 100% of the time in the 106th and 107th Congresses. However, he voted against all four articles of impeachment against Bill Clinton. After he voted for Republican Dennis Hastert for Speaker of the House in 2001, the Democrats stripped him of his seniority and refused to give him any committee assignments. Because the Republicans did not assign him to any committees either, Traficant became the first member of the House of Representatives in over a century—outside the top leadership—to lack a single committee assignment. [18]

Defense of John Demjanjuk

Traficant championed the unpopular case of John Demjanjuk, a Ukrainian-born autoworker from Seven Hills who had been convicted in Israel and sentenced to hang for having been the brutal Nazi concentration camp guard Ivan the Terrible. [19] For almost a decade, Traficant (along with Pat Buchanan) [20] insisted that Demjanjuk had been denied a fair trial, and been the victim of mistaken identity; in 1993 the Supreme Court of Israel overturned the conviction, on the basis of doubt. Demjanjuk was later deported to Germany on May 11, 2009, after the Supreme Court of the United States refused to overturn his deportation order. Demjanjuk was tried and convicted by a German criminal court of being an accessory to murder, but died before the German Appellate Court could hear his case, thereby voiding the conviction. [21]

Defense of Arthur Rudolph

Following Pat Buchanan's recommendation to reconsider the denaturalization of former Nazi and NASA scientist Arthur Rudolph, who had been brought to the United States under Operation Paperclip, Traficant spoke to the Friends of Arthur Rudolph, an organization based in Huntsville, Alabama. [22] He argued that denaturalization had happened because of a "powerful Jewish lobby" influencing Congress. [22] He added that it was a violation of a United States citizen's civil rights, and he suggested that Rudolph return to the United States nonetheless. [22] Additionally, he "introduced a resolution in Congress [...] calling for an investigation into the OSI's handling of Rudolph's case." [22] Meanwhile, in 1990, Traficant had planned to meet Rudolph in Niagara Falls, on the Canadian–American border; however, Rudolph was arrested by immigration officials in Toronto, and the meeting never occurred. [22]

Trial and expulsion

In 2001, Traficant was indicted on federal corruption charges for taking campaign funds for personal use. Again, he opted to represent himself, insisting that the trial was part of a vendetta against him dating back to his 1983 trial. After a two-month federal trial, on April 11, 2002, he was convicted of ten felony counts including bribery, racketeering, and tax evasion. [2] Per longstanding House convention, House Democrats directed him not to cast any votes pending an investigation by the United States House Committee on Ethics.

Eventually, the House Ethics Committee recommended that Traficant be expelled from Congress. On July 24, the House voted to expel him in a 420-1 vote. [23] The sole vote against expulsion was Representative Gary Condit, who at the time was in the midst of a scandal of his own and had been defeated in his reelection primary. [24] Traficant was the first representative to be expelled since Michael Myers in 1980 as a result of the Abscam scandal.

After his expulsion, Traficant ran as an independent candidate for another term in the House while incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary, Allenwood. [25] He received 28,045 votes, or 15 percent, and became one of only a handful of individuals in the history of the United States to run for a federal office from prison. The election was won by one of his former aides, Tim Ryan. [26]

Prison and later life


Traficant entered the Federal Correctional Institution, Allenwood Low, on August 6, 2002, [27] with the Federal Bureau of Prisons ID # 31213-060. [28] He served his first seventeen months at Allenwood. He claimed that he was put in solitary confinement shortly after his arrival for incitement to riot after he told a guard, "People can't hear you. Speak up." [29] During the seven years of his incarceration, Traficant refused any visitors, saying that he didn't want anyone to see him. He was released on September 2, 2009, at age 68, and was subject to three years of supervised release. [30]

While in prison, Traficant received support from neo-Nazi David Duke, who urged visitors to his personal website to donate to his personal fund. Duke posted a letter written by Traficant stating that he was targeted by the United States Department of Justice for, among other things, defending John Demjanjuk. Traficant also claimed, in the letter, that he knew facts about "Waco, Ruby Ridge, Pan Am Flight 103, Jimmy Hoffa and the John F. Kennedy assassination", which he may divulge in the future. Author Michael Collins Piper, who wrote Target: Traficant, The Untold Story [31] initially helped circulate Traficant's letter, said that "There's stuff I've written about Traficant that's showing up in places I don't even know. It's like (six) degrees of separation with the Internet now," and denied that Traficant had any direct connections to Duke. [32]


Traficant was released from prison on September 2, 2009. [28] On September 6, 2009, 1,200 supporters welcomed him home at a banquet with an Elvis impersonator, and a Traficant lookalike contest. "Welcome home Jimbo" was printed on T-shirts. "I think it's time to tell the FBI and the IRS that this is our country and we're tired—tired of the pressure, tired of the political targeting, tired of a powerful central government that is crippling America," he said. He also said he was considering running for his old seat in Congress. Traficant signed a limited, three-month contract to work as a part-time weekend talk radio host for Cleveland news/talk station WTAM in January 2010. His contract permitted him to quit if he chose to run for office. [33]

On November 2, 2009, a column by Traficant in the American Free Press continued his defense of the accused concentration camp guard John Demjanjuk. [34] Michael Collins Piper defended Traficant against his accusers. [31]

2010 congressional campaign

In September 2010, Traficant was certified to run for the same seat he held before his expulsion, and said that his platform would be to repeal the Sixteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. [35] Traficant lost the election to his former aide Tim Ryan, to whom he lost an earlier race in 2002, in which Traficant ran as an independent from his prison cell. [26] Traficant received 30,556 votes, or 16%.

Post-prison life

After his release from prison, he was featured as a guest speaker at a Tea Party protest in Columbiana, Ohio, among other events affiliated with reactionary politics. [36] [37] Traficant later went on to purchase a 5 bedroom farm in Greenford, Ohio.

Traficant began a grassroots campaign in July 2014, "Project Freedom USA", [38] to, among other things, put people pressure on Congress to get rid of the IRS and "divorce" the Federal Reserve. [39]

Accident and death

Traficant was injured in an accident at his farm in Greenford, Ohio on September 23, 2014. A tractor he was driving into a pole barn flipped over and trapped him underneath. Traficant was taken to Salem Regional Medical Center in Salem, Ohio, then airlifted to St. Elizabeth's Health Center in Youngstown. On the evening of September 24, his wife described him as "sedated and not doing well". [40]

By September 26, via news reports and statements from attorney and family spokesman Heidi Hanni, it was learned that the family was awaiting the doctors' assessment; there was no word as to whether or not Traficant had suffered a heart attack, but he was still unconscious and was being sedated for pain and other reasons. A number of longtime family friends, including Linda Kovachik, a former congressional aide to Traficant, told The Vindicator that it is believed Traficant had a heart attack, causing the tractor accident. [41]

A text message was sent out Friday evening September 26 by Jim Condit Jr., the Constitution Party candidate for Ohio's 8th congressional district and a close friend who had been traveling with Traficant to help promote Project Freedom USA. The text message stated that "the machines were disconnected at 2:00 p.m. (Friday). He is still breathing. Thousands are praying." On September 27, 2014, Traficant died at a hospice in Poland, Ohio, aged 73. [42] [43] By September 29, Traficant's body had been buried in an undisclosed location after the family had a private funeral, and announced that there would be no public funeral for him. [44]

A subsequent medical investigation determined that Traficant had not had a heart attack or seizure before the accident, and was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In addition, he had not sustained any crushing injuries in the accident. The forensic pathologist who conducted the examination attributed Traficant's death to positional asphyxiation, stating that he had been unable to breathe because of the weight of the tractor on top of him. [45]


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U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Ohio's 17th congressional district

Succeeded by