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REP. TRAFICANT Staffers reveal filing errors



Published: Tue, June 12, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The forms for the two trips will be filed in a few days, a Traficant spokesman said.

By DAVID SKOLNICK

VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr.'s staff erred when it failed to file financial disclosure statements regarding two trips the congressman made to Albania paid for by a lobbying organization, his top aide said today.

"We were advised inaccurately the first time we called about these documents," Charles Straub, of Traficant's office, said today. "But I'm accepting responsibility for the oversight because this is paperwork filed at the staff level."

Straub said Traficant's office was apparently not clear in the information provided to the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct about the two trips, one in 1999 and the other in April, and the Albanian American Civic League, the organization that funded Traficant's Albanian visits.

Questions arise: Questions about Traficant's failure to file financial disclosure statements for the trips were raised by Roll Call, a publication that covers Congress and has written numerous stories about the Mahoning Valley congressman in recent weeks.

After the story appeared Monday, Straub said he called the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct as a follow-up and discovered there was a problem.

"I asked for a reinterpretation and we are required to file those forms," Straub said.

Disclosure rules: House rules require legislators accepting trips to disclose the cost and nature of the trip to the House Clerk's office within 30 days of returning from the trip. Lobbying groups are permitted to pay for travel expenses for congressmen and their staff.

That deadline has passed for both trips and the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct could opt to take disciplinary action against Traficant of Poland, D-17th, for failing to file the forms on time.

Straub said getting the forms filed in the next few days is a priority for the office. A letter to the Clerk's office and U.S. Rep. Joel Hefley of Colorado Springs, Colo., chairman of the Committee on Standards, also will be sent explaining the mix-up, Straub said.

The two trips cost the lobbying group about $5,000, Straub said. No taxpayer dollars were used to pay for the trips, he said.

Upon returning from the April trip to Albania, Traficant delivered a speech on the House floor in support of the Albanian Democratic Coalition party and put the entire voting rolls of two polling places in Tirana, Albania's capital, into the Congressional Record at a cost of more than $5,000 to taxpayers.

The Albanian American Civic League, which gave $2,000 to Traficant in 1999, is run by former U.S. Rep. Joseph DioGuardi, a New York Republican.

Traficant is under federal indictment on 10 felony counts including bribery, racketeering and tax evasion.

skolnick@vindy.com




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