WASHINGTON – Rep. James Traficant should be expelled from Congress. That was the recommendation that emerged from the House ethics panel that has been considering his case.
But the colorful Democratic congressman from Ohio will get one last chance to defend himself on the floor of the House next week. Under the rules, he gets at least 30 minutes to plead his case — and he is promising quite the show.
"Maybe when I go to the floor for this final execution, I'll wear a denim outfit, maybe do a Michael Jackson moonwalk," Traficant told the committee deciding his fate this week.
But Traficant's case will not be the only ethics matter under consideration on Capitol Hill next week. New Jersey Democratic Senator Robert Torricelli is scheduled to appear behind closed doors at the Senate ethics committee.
He is facing penalties from the Senate panel following a recommendation from the federal prosecutor who declined to file criminal charges against the first-term senator for alleged campaign finance irregularities and corruption.
The allegations were first made by now-jailed businessman David Chang, who told prosecutors that he gave the senator cash, Italian suits and other expensive gifts in exchange for helping to recoup $70 million Chang was owed by the North Korean government.
Torricielli denied the allegations, and while his good friend and committee head Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., recused himself from the probe, many doubt that he will face any reprimand.
But Torricelli's name did come up during the Traficant hearings. Blurted out during testimony from Richard Detore, the former CEO of U.S. Aerospace Group, which is owned by an Ohio businessman named J.J. Cafaro.
"I was concerned with Sen. Torricelli's apparent use of the aircraft, and concerns that I had heard in reference to a large purchase of an item on the Cafaro company credit card for Mr. Torricelli's girlfriend," Detore said during the House ethics panel's investigation into Traficant this week.
Torricelli's office called the allegations ludicrous — unworthy of comment. And with a sizable lead in the polls — and a sizable campaign fund of more than $5 million to match — Torricelli may never have to speak a word of it.