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The House of Representatives Wednesday night tossed Ohio Democratic Congressman James Traficant out on his fat, felonious ass.
Such actions are rare in the old-boy network called Congress. Traficant is only the second Congressman since the Civil War to get the boot and it usually takes a lot to get bounced from Washington’s haven for con men, fast-talkers and thieves.
Traficant left the boys (and girls) on the Hill little choice. Convicted of racketeering, bribery and tax evasion (and headed for prison when he is sentenced next week), he defiantly dared his House colleagues to oust him, even symbolically mooning them during a stormy House Ethics Committee hearing last week.
Only lame-duck California Congressman Gary Condit voted to save Traficant’s ass. Condit, sitting out his final days in isolation from his fellow members, may still have to face the music for his role in the disappearance and murder of intern (and lover) Chandra Levy.
Traficant, true to form, strode cockily into the House chamber Wednesday to declare his innocence and claim it was all a witch hunt against him and then walked just as defiantly out of the House when the vote went against him 420-1. He vowed to win back his Congressional seat, even if he had to do it from prison.
When you look at the long list of check kiters, liars and con men who have also walked the Halls of Congress (and still do), you begin to realize just how outrageous you have to be to get tossed out of such a club.
Traficant, with his rumbled suits, narrow ties and bad haircuts, never fit in with the boys in the Hill. A former sheriff who beat an earlier rap for bribery and extortion, Traficant made his colleagues uncomfortable from the day he arrived in Washington. But while his swagger made others nervous in Congress, his working-class constituency back in Youngstown, Ohio, loved it, easily electing the bombastic Congressman to nine terms.
Congress is used to eccentrics and colorful characters, but Traficant’s conviction earlier this year on several counts of bribery, racketeering and tax evasion was something they could no longer overlook Still, had Traficant showed some contrition during his Ethics Committee hearings, he might have survived with only a rebuke or censure.
“I think he wanted to get kicked out,” says one Hill aide. “It just makes him more of a martyr.”
Traficant deserved to go, but you have to wonder just how many others on the Hill should get the same treatment.
Florida Rep. Corrine Brown who left investors in several shady business deals back home holding the bag and then lied about her involvement in those deals to federal investigators. She also has accepted large cash payments from activists and religious leaders.
Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank, the most openly-gay member of Congress, whose male prostitute boyfriend ran a whorehouse out of the Congressman’s Capitol Hill townhouse.
Virginia Rep. Jim Moran who openly sells his vote to any lobbyist or corporate bigwig who will lend his money to try and pay off huge debts from stock market losses.
The list goes on and on. Congress is rushing to pass a bill outlawing corporate fraud.
If they really want to outlaw fraud, maybe they should just pass a bill outlawing Congress.