Canton Repository

April 12, 2002

Ohio lawmakers guarded about Traficant 

By PAUL M. KRAWZAK
Copley News SErvice

WASHINGTON -- Fellow lawmakers reacted with sadness, disappointment and some surprise to the conviction Thursday of Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. on corruption and bribery charges.

“I think overwhelmingly around here, among members, (the reaction) has been a sense of relief that this chapter is behind us,” said Rep. Tom Sawyer, D-Akron. “I strongly suspect there will be a powerful sense within the House that he has disgraced the body he has been privileged to serve.”

Sawyer is seeking re-election in the same district as Traficant, a nine-term Democrat from Poland in Mahoning County. The two
incumbents ended up in the same district when the state’s congressional districts were redrawn after being reduced in number from 19 to 18.

Traficant often has sided with the Republican majority in the House in recent years. He has planned to run as an independent rather than a Democrat in the newly formed district.

Rep. Bob Ney, R-St. Clairsville, was skeptical of some of the charges against Traficant while considering that “some of them might have had something to” them. “I’m surprised it all came down to this,” he added. “I’ve known Jim. I like Jim. He’s been a good, diligent person to work with us and for our interests in the Ohio Valley.”

Rep. Ted Strickland, D-Lucasville, did not expect to be as saddened as he is after the verdict. “I think he’s a bright person with a lot of talent and I just — this just seems so unnecessary that these circumstances would have come about that led to the conviction. It’s difficult to understand.”

He added: “It’s difficult to know what goes on in the inner-life of a person. As a psychologist ... I was aware of that long before I
ever came to Congress. I don’t have a rational explanation for” why Traficant would break the law, he said.

Rep. Sherrod Brown, D-Lorain, released a statement saying he hoped the verdict “closes a chapter in Ohio politics that most of us would like to forget.”

Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Bethelehem Township, was reported to be returning to Ohio and unavailable to comment.

While House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Mo., called for Traficant’s resignation, lawmakers in Ohio were guarded on that
issue. They said the decision is properly left up to Traficant.

Minutes after the verdict was announced, the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, better known as the Ethics
Committee, announced it will meet to consider initiating disciplinary proceedings against Traficant. No date was released.

The panel could recommend that Traficant be expelled from Congress, which requires a two-thirds vote from the House. Other disciplinary actions include a censure or reprimand, which require majority votes in the House.

Ney doubts the House will vote any time soon to expel Traficant.

“I don’t expect that anybody is going to bring up immediate expulsion,” he said. “I don’t think it would make it.”

Strickland hopes Congress will not take any disciplinary action until any appeals filed by Traficant are exhausted. “The entire legal process should play itself out before the House of Representatives should take any definitive action,” he said.

Sawyer, a former member of the ethics panel, remarked that Traficant’s conviction is a “far graver matter” than a violation of House rules, which he said could bring about a censure or reprimand. He declined to say whether Traficant should be expelled. “My preference would be to wait and allow the ethics committee to do its work,” he said.