James A. Traficant Jr.
Congressman James Traficant
James Anthony Traficant, Jr., was a prominent and controversial Ohio politician in the late twentieth century.
Traficant was born on May 8, 1941, in Youngstown, Ohio. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 1963, and he also earned Master's degrees from the University of Pittsburgh and Youngstown State University.
Upon graduating with his Masters degrees, Traficant embarked upon a career in politics. From 1971 to 1981, he served as the director of the Mahoning County (Ohio) Drug Program. In 1980, Traficant, a member of the Democratic Party, won election as the Mahoning County sheriff, an office that he held from 1981 to 1985. While sheriff, Trafficant faced charges of accepting bribes. Trafficant admitted to accepting the bribes but claimed that he did so while conducting an undercover operation. A court found the sheriff innocent of all charges.
In 1984, Traficant won a seat in the United States House of Represenatives, representing the 17th Ohio District. He won reelection in eight subsequent elections, serving in the House of Representatives from 1985 to 2002. As a representative, Traficant became known for his support of working-class issues and for his flamboyant and colorful speeches. He commonly ended his speeches with the phrase, "Beam me up, Mr. Speaker." He also became famous for his toupee. Traficant routinely crossed party lines, voting with the Republican Party to the dismay of the Democratic Party. He also championed unusual causes, including supporting Ohioan John Demjanjuk's attempts to remain an American citizen. Since the 1970s, the federal government has attempted to deport Demjanjuk for concealing his association with the Nazis during World War II.
In 2002, Traficant faced charges of using campaign donations for his own personal use, as well as forcing his office staff to work on his farm. A court convicted Traficant on the charges and sentenced him to eight years in federal prison. Upon Traficant's conviction, the House of Representatives expelled him as a member.
Traficant continues to be in prison. Despite this, in 2002, Traficant sought reelection to the House of Representatives, receiving fifteen percent of the total votes cast. Traficant is scheduled to be released in 2010, unless he receives a pardon or is released early for good behavior.