Loud and brash, Traficant commands attention
'Beam me up!' among convicted lawmaker's colorful phrases
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Possessed of wild hair and even wilder expressions, U.S. Rep. James Traficant -- a former sheriff, embattled lawmaker and convicted felon -- is many things. Boring is not one of them.
With a penchant for colorful, sometimes crude language, Traficant, 61, made a name for himself in Congress long before his conviction on federal corruption charges, a courtroom defeat that may lead to his expulsion from Congress because of ethics violations tied to it.
"There are no ethics in politics," the nine-term Ohio Democrat declared at his ethics hearing. "And there should be no ethics committee. It is dog eat dog. Castrate your opponent."
Such comments have made him a favorite of reporters in Washington, where he is likely to spout off on just about any topic. He is perhaps best known for his flamboyant and animated House speeches, which often end with his trademark, "Beam me up!"
Barreling through the House in rumbled sports coats and loudly colored shirts, Traficant has fashioned himself as a maverick populist, spending much of his career railing against foreign aid and various government agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service and the CIA. "Lying, thieving, stealing nincompoops" is how he once described the latter.
He has been a fierce advocate of promoting American goods and protecting American industries and is a strong proponent of a taxpayer bill of rights. Like many lawmakers, he tries to steer federal dollars and projects to his 17th Congressional District centered around Youngstown, Ohio.
His election to Congress in 1984 was propelled by an earlier scandal.
As sheriff of Mahoning County, Ohio -- where he grew up -- Traficant was tried on bribery charges in 1983. Acting as his lawyer, he persuaded a jury to acquit him, saying he was conducting his own sting operation.
But a jury did not believe his claims of innocence this spring, convicting him on bribery, fraud and tax evasion charges.
That conviction led to his ethics hearing. Traficant has said he expects to be kicked out of Congress, but he has promised a memorable fight.
"When I got to the floor for this final execution, I will wear a denim outfit," he announced at his ethics hearing.
"I will walk in there like Willie Nelson, combination of John Wayne, Will Smith -- 'Men in Black' -- James Brown," he said. "Maybe do a Michael Jackson moonwalk, right up to the stand and ask unanimous contempt to undress and revile the House."
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