New occupant to 'cleanse' Traficant suite with ritual

Rep. Steven C. LaTourette, a Madison Republican who was one of Traficant's closest friends in Congress, said the purifying ceremony is offensive.
WASHINGTON -- Tucked away in a corner of the vast Rayburn House Office Building, Suite 2446 played a prominent role in James Traficant's congressional career.
He would sometimes sleep in his Capitol Hill office, and when his colleagues voted last July to expel him from Congress, Traficant hauled some of the office's government-owned furniture with him back to Ohio.
Now the new tenant of 2446 Rayburn is trying to rid the office of Traficant's taint.
Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, whose staff moved into the suite in December, is inviting lawmakers and congressional staff to attend a "cleansing ritual on the office" later this month in an effort to formally end Traficant's legacy.
"Toupees, leisure suits, prison or Trekkie garb optional," the invitations say in mock tribute to Traficant, who had occupied the office since 1993. He was notorious for strewing his retro clothes around the office before being sentenced to eight years in federal prison for racketeering, bribery and other felonies.
The invitations, which were sent to dozens of offices in the Rayburn building, feature a photo of Blumenauer wielding a two-by-four that is inscribed with the words "Bangin' Away in D.C." The photo is modeled on a similar image that had been displayed prominently on Traficant's congressional Web site.
Blumenauer himself has a reputation for quirkiness. He has a penchant for bowties and is often seen riding his bike around Capitol Hill.
For the most part, staffers who work on the fourth floor of Rayburn near Traficant's old stomping grounds said that the "purifying ceremony" -- like the ex-congressman himself -- sounded bizarre but entertaining.
"It's all done in fun," said Nick Martinelli, who works for Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.) in Rayburn 2444, next door to Blumenauer's new office. "At this point in time, Jim is certainly a national figure in the humor department. After this party here, it'll all be over for the Traficant-related shenanigans."
Not everyone, however, found it so amusing. Two Youngstown natives who work in Rayburn for non-Ohio lawmakers said the Traficant jokes were beginning to get a little stale.
Rep. Steven C. LaTourette, a Madison Republican who was one of Traficant's closest friends in Congress, said the purifying ceremony is offensive.
"I think he should maybe rethink this and find a better use of his time," LaTourette said. "I do find it to be offensive."
"Mr. Traficant was convicted, he's serving eight years, and I don't really think that that's a joke. And to invite people to wear prison garb or leisure suits, I think that crosses the line," LaTourette continued. "I think it's beneath Congressman Blumenauer."
LaTourette, whose Rayburn office is around the corner from Blumenauer's, added that his office did not receive an invitation to the ceremony, which is scheduled for Jan. 29. "I guess that's probably by design," he said. "We're from Ohio and we have manners and we're not going to go to a place where we're not invited."
Blumenauer spokesman Tom Markgraf said the party would go on, notwithstanding LaTourette's complaints. The main reason the office is holding the party, Markgraf said, is that 2446 Rayburn once belonged to then-Rep. Les AuCoin, the Democrat who was the dean of Oregon's congressional delegation.
"We're sorry if Congressman LaTourette is upset," Markgraf said. Traficant "was an infamous fellow, but what we're really celebrating is that it's Congressman AuCoin's office and now we've got it back."

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