Former Rep. James Traficant passes away at age 73
May 8, 1941 – September 27, 2014
James Traficant who liked to be called “Jimbo.” made waves at the beginning of his political career.
From 1981-1985, as Mahoning County Sheriff, his meteoric rise in valley politics was fueled after he refused to serve eviction notices on folks whose homes were being foreclosed upon by banks. His actions made national news, and secured his reputation as a champion for the little guy, or blue collar workers for decades.
That defiance of the government made him a folk hero in the Valley, which was hit hard by the loss of about 4,000 steel jobs on Black Monday September 17, 1977. A loss of about 40,000 manufacturing jobs would follow over the next decade.
In 1983, Sheriff Traficant was charged with racketeering for allegedly accepting bribes from the mob. Traficant represented himself claiming that he accepted that money as part of a sting operation that he was conducting against the mob. He won the case, securing his reputation as a fighter and a victor in the state.
However, he lost the federal tax evasion case, prosecuted by a new young federal attorney Craig Morford. This began his outspoken battle with the IRS, which he called the internal rectal service.
Traficant ran for Congress in 1981. He would win election after election as voters in the 17th District sent him back to Congress for nine terms.
Strong-willed and outspoken, former Rep. James Traficant was one of the most quotable politicians in Ohio history. Here are just a few of his more memorable lines caught on camera. As expected, there is some colorful (bleeped) language.
During his 17 years in office, he became known for his bad hair, narrow ties, bell bottoms and polyester suits. He gained national attention for his outrageous one-minute speeches on the House Floor.
In Congress he passed “Buy American” legislation. He also passed legislation requiring the Internal Revenue Service to bear the burden of proof in cases it brings against people and businesses.
His defense of two accused Nazis – the first was a NASA employee, the second was auto worker John Demjauk – brought criticism by many, applause by others.
On April 15, 2002, Traficant was convicted of taking bribes, filing false tax returns, racketeering and forcing his aides to work at his family farm. His criminal case was prosecuted by US Attorney Craig Morford, who successfully prosecuted his first tax evasion case against him.
The House Ethics committee voted to expel Traficant on July 24 of that year, by a vote of 420 to one.
The Congressman and now convicted felon, maintained to the end that this prosecution was a vendetta for winning against the federal government in his 1983 trial.
One of his last acts before being sent to prison was securing funds with Republican support to build an entertainment complex which is now known as the Covelli Center.
He was released from prison on September 2, 2009.
In 2010, he ran for Congress again, losing to his one time congressional aide Congressman Tim Ryan. He lost a prior race to Ryan in 2002.
Traficant remained popular with many residents in the region.
In 2012, almost 200 people stood in line waiting to buy his book, which included his one minute speeches on the house floor. His whit and way with folks was still in tact.
The man, who liked to be known as the son of a truck driver, had two masters degrees – one from the University of Pittsburgh and a second from Youngstown State University.
Traficant loved his family and shielded them from the public.
If you met him, chances are you either loved or hated him. But if you followed his life, chances are you won’t forget him.
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