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JAMES A. TRAFICANT JR. Trips were free but far from fancy



Published: Fri, June 15, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The congressman's name is near the bottom of the list of his Ohio colleagues who took advantage of free trips.

By DAVID SKOLNICK

VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Although his fellow Congress members from Ohio were the recipients of privately funded trips to India, Israel, Spain, Italy, China and Germany, U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. got to visit hot tourist spots such as Albania; Lansing, Mich.; Austin, Texas; and Columbus.

A study by The Columbus Dispatch showed that Ohio lawmakers took more than 250 trips, costing more than $615,000, paid by corporations, interest groups and other organizations, from 1996 through 2000.

Near the bottom of the list is Traficant, of Poland, who took eight trips during the five-year period.

Reports: A 1999 trip to Albania, at a cost of $1,275, is the only one of the eight that Traficant, D-17th, listed on his financial disclosure reports. Congressional members are required to file financial disclosure reports no later than 30 days after returning from trips paid by private organizations.

But Traficant did not file reports for the 1999 Albanian trip and another one to that country he took in April, paid by an Albanian-American lobbying group, until Wednesday.

Charles Straub, Traficant's spokesman, said the congressman's staff members mistakenly thought they did not have to file disclosure reports for those trips.

The staff members found out they were incorrect after a national publication brought the issue to light earlier this week, Straub said.

Realized error: Upon further checking, Traficant's staff members acknowledged they erred by failing to file the disclosure statements and turned in the reports Wednesday. The cost of the April trip was $4,443.

Traficant is under no obligation to file disclosure reports for the seven other trips he took from 1996 through 2000. That is because those trips, to Lansing, Austin and Columbus, were paid for by the Reform Party.

Congress members receiving trips paid by recognized political party organizations do not have to file financial disclosure statements for those trips, Straub said.

The newspaper study showed that many of those paying for the trips have business in front of Congress. Also, the study stated that several of the trips were referred to as "public-policy conferences" or "congressional study panels" in overseas locations or at luxury resorts in Hawaii, Florida, Nevada and California.

Tops list: At the top of the list were U.S. Rep. Michael G. Oxley of Findlay, R-4th, who took 29 trips to destinations such as Rome, Paris, London and Prague, totaling $120,206, and U.S. Rep. Thomas C. Sawyer of Akron, D-14th, who took 34 trips to such places as Paris, Japan, Russia and Israel, totaling $94,285.

U.S. Rep. Sherrod Brown of Lorain, D-13th, whose district includes western Trumbull County, was sixth on the list with $51,922 worth of trips. In all, Brown accepted 20 trips to places including India, Israel and Geneva.

skolnick@vindy.com




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