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He should know better



Published: Wed, June 13, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



It would seem that after 16 years in Congress, James A. Traficant Jr. would know when he has to file a form and when he doesn't.

After all, this is a congressman who intends to go into federal court and act as his own lawyer, facing an undefeated team of highly trained, highly motivated professional prosecutors. Indeed, he is a man who has done exactly that before.

So what should be so tough about knowing that when a congressman accepts a free trip, he has to file a disclosure form? Traficant knows he went to Albania -- twice. He knows he didn't pay. He should know that he isn't supposed to keep that kind of information to himself.

Blame game: Traficant's spokesman, Charles Straub, is quick to come to the defense of his boss. Mea culpa, says Straub. It's the staff's fault, not Traficant's.

Poppycock.

The congressman prides himself on being his own man. He basks in the glory of his one minute speeches that, although they are delivered to an empty chamber, have made him perhaps the most recognizable congressman in the country who isn't in a leadership position.

Don't expect the House Ethics Commission to get too exercised about Traficant's failure to disclose. With the congressman already facing federal charges of accepting bribes and favors from constituents and kickbacks from employees, what's a little trip between friends.

And we don't expect the congressman's cheerleaders and apologists to even take note of something as trivial as a junket.

But for what it's worth, we think a congressman ought to know the rules and ought to live by them. And when he doesn't, we think his colleagues and his constituents should do more than shrug and smile.




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