Committee says Traficant should go
By DAVID ENRICH
STATES NEWS SERVICE
WASHINGTON -- The House ethics committee unanimously voted Thursday evening that Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. should be expelled for corruption that violated the chamber's code of conduct.
The full House of Representatives must now vote by a two-thirds majority to expel Traficant, who would be the first lawmaker ejected since Michael "Ozzie" Myers was kicked out in 1980 for accepting bribes from undercover FBI agents.
The House has adjourned for the weekend and is expected to consider the resolution early next week.
After four days of hearings and hours of deliberations behind closed doors, the 10 members of the ethics panel -- officially titled the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct -- left Washington for the weekend without having announced if they would recommend expulsion or a lesser punishment for Traficant, a Poland Democrat.
The committee members met for about three hours Thursday evening in an office suite in the basement of the Capitol. Hours after they left the Capitol and Congress had adjourned, the committee released a terse statement: "The Committee voted unanimously to recommend to the House that Representative James A. Traficant Jr. be expelled."
At a sentencing hearing Thursday afternoon, Traficant urged the committee not to expel him, although he repeatedly said he expected that would be the final outcome. He vowed not to resign.
As he wrapped up his remarks, Traficant addressed Rep. Steven C. LaTourette, a Madison Republican who is a close personal friend of Traficant's.
"If I'm out of here, I want you to work with whoever succeeds me ... to help my people," Traficant told LaTourette, who appeared to wipe away tears from his eyes.
"It's been one of the most unpleasant experiences I ever recall having," LaTourette said as he left the ethics committee office suite Thursday night, before the recommendation had been announced.
"I would say that anyone who said they liked the experience, whether they like or dislike the congressman, needs to see a psychiatrist," LaTourette said.
"It's been bittersweet," Rep. Howard Berman of California, the top-ranking Democrat on the committee, said as he left the suite. "It's both sad because you're dealing with a colleague and it's been ennobling in a way because you see a number of your colleagues at their best."
Vote by full House to come
The House is expected to vote on the expulsion resolution early next week. House rules allow Traficant to address lawmakers for 30 minutes, although he said Thursday that he would request that Republican leaders give him eight hours to talk.
In addition to LaTourette, Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, a Cleveland Democrat, also sat on the ethics committee. She refused to comment Thursday as she left the committee suite before the announcement of the expulsion recommendation. She said she had been instructed by the committee not to talk publicly about the deliberations.
After sitting through part of the adjudicative phase of the hearings earlier this week, Rep. Ted Strickland, a Lucasville Democrat, said he would vote to expel Traficant.
Traficant and other members of Ohio's congressional delegation were returning to the state and were unavailable to comment after the expulsion recommendation was announced.
"I will go down in history as an expelled member," Traficant said at the end of his sentencing hearing Thursday afternoon. "But you know what? I have a clear conscience."