Friday, December 28, 2007

Interesting People: James Traficant

How quickly we forget those wily on-the-take elected officials once the prison door is slammed. Corrupt populist princes such as "Buddy" Cianci and "Duke" Cunningham are the carnies of American democracy, colorful in nickname, style, past, and eventually, docket. But nobody holds a candle to the charmingly corrupt, entertaining James Traficant.

Traficant spent 17 years as the Democratic Congressman of the 17th district in Ohio. He always did have an air of corruption about him, but managed to evade conviction for many years (even becoming the only person thus far to beat a federal racketeering/RICO charge while defending himself.) Sadly, the toupéed one's luck ran out, and in 2002 Mr. Traficant was convicted of accepting bribes and sentenced to eight years. As with Bill Jefferson, the corrupt representative from Louisiana re-elected after investigators found $90,000 in his freezer (seriously, the freezer? If I'm hiding 90K, bloody sure it won't be that easy to find), toward the end Traficant had uncomfortable relations with party elders. These leaders were wary of being associated with this corrupt Congressman, so they generally kept their distance. Traficant responded by voting for a Republican for Speaker of the House. Also similar to Jefferson, Traficant didn't let legal problems keep him from running for office. Unbowed by pressure, Traficant would be re-elected to his seat despite public knowledge of investigations. His style extended to running for re-election while in prison as an Independent, after his conviction. Traficant finished third, with 15% of the vote.

Most memorable, however, were Traficant's brilliantly madcap speeches during "floor time", when representatives bloviate in front of an empty chamber and C-SPAN cameras for the folks back home. Some of his best lines, taken from the delightful Free James Traficant website:

"Mr. Speaker, baseball will eliminate two teams. Some surprise. Tickets average 50 bucks. A program is $10; popcorn, $5; parking, $20. A hot dog and a beer cost about $10 to $12 at most stadiums. Beam me up. The umpire said, "Play ball," not "monopoly."...I yield back what is left of America's great pastime after the greatest World Series perhaps in our history."

"Now if that is not enough to find coal in your athletic supporter, check this out: A school board in Georgia removed the word "Christmas" from their school calendar because the ACLU threatened to sue. Beam me up. If this is religious freedom, I am a fashion model for GQ...Mr. Speaker, I yield back the fact that Christmas is not about a jolly old fat man. Christmas is about the birth of Christ."

In a court hearing: "I want you to disregard all the opposing counsel has said. I think they're delusionary. I think they've had something funny for lunch in their meal, I think they should be handcuffed, chained to a fence and flogged, and all of their hearsay evidence should be thrown the hell out. And if they lie again, I'm going to go over there and kick them in the crotch. Thank you very much."

I was originally thinking of doing a post on charmingly corrupt Republican Congresspeople. Unfortunately, "charm" and "Republican Congressperson" are two terms that have no business in the same sentence, and a post on plain Republican corruption in Congress would take much too much time.


Eliot Ness said...

Snide remarks ... but you, sir, don't have a clue what you're talking about -- only what you've read in the headlines.

Read this:


Publish again after you have watched this:

C-SPAN Testimony to Congress

and have read this:

Open Letter to Louis Freeh

Laser said...

Any items anti James Traficant are, by default, pro Craig Morford. Anyone that would side with a person who was blessed with esteemed levels of trust, who betrayed his oath of office and The American people by perjury and fraud to put an innocent man in Jail, is a sad person indeed.
I am Laser Haas, if we win our similar case of a battle against corruption Justice Dept rogue personnel on Jan 2, 2008, you will see money put where our mouth is in a campaign to Free James Traficant.
A man who gave his liberty, in the pursuit of Truth, whose only wrong was being naive enough to belief in our American system of justice.

Quriltai said...

Huh...I didn't realize how well organized Traficant's allies are. You're to be applauded.

There's nothing in there that is not factual...I did not say whether he was guilty but merely what the court system decided. I'm not in the business of weighing his guilt, only ruminating on his colorful nature in an age of interchangeable politicians. The tone of my post is generally one of admiration, though granted I am not joining any "Free Traficant" movement. That said, upon his release I hope that he gains the profile and evident self-enjoyment that Buddy Cianci is currently possessing.

truthilizer said...

If this article is how you show "admiration" for someone, do you use your filed teeth to shred the flesh off people you don't fancy?

Just saying..

I forgive you though for you know not what you do, O mighty false witness.

You could read some facts on the case at for penance, though..:)

Diva said...

I just love that "truthilizer" comment and I totally agree with same.

biff said...

wily on-the-take, charmingly corrupt, allways did have an air of corruption about him- Then you write-The tone of my post is generally one of admiration ? Read the 6,399 pages of trial transcript and I bet you change your tune. John Brown