TRAFICANT EXPELLED FROM CONGRESS
The House expelled one of its own from Congress, voting to remove Rep. James Traficant, D-Ohio, in only the second expulsion since the Civil War. The 420-1 vote to expel Traficant is the fifth time Congress has expelled another member in 213 years.
Traficant, defiant until the end, said he was the target of federal prosecutors employing illegal tactics to pursue a vendetta against him, including pressuring witnesses to lie. "I'll go to jail, but I'll be damned if I'll be pressed by a government that pressured these witnesses," against him, he said.
Traficant was convicted this spring on 10 counts of racketeering, bribery and tax evasion. The Ohio congressman, who will be sentenced July 30, claims to have tapes and affidavits on witnesses who testified against him in federal court that would exonerate him. He also said he would run for Congress again, from behind bars.
-- Do you think the House vote was a good one or was Traficant unfairly targeted by prosecutors?
-- Can a congressman represent a district from prison?
(Thanks to UPI's Mark Benjamin in Washington)
STOCK OPTIONS STILL AN OPTION
Two weeks ago, members on both sides of the congressional aisle claimed they favored forcing executives to report the expense of stock options to investors but the amendment disappeared from reform measures passed by Congress Wednesday.
In the wake of the Enron collapse in December, Capitol Hill geared up legislative proposals to regulate how "stock compensation" is handled in the executive suite. Stock options are guaranteed opportunities to buy a company's stock at a price in the future usually well below what it is selling for on the market.
In March, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., introduced "Ending the Double Standards for Stock Options Act," which targeted at the huge sums of stock compensation to senior executives legally kept off a company's earnings statements and away from the eyes of investors.
Current accounting rules allow corporations to essentially not consider such compensation as a business expense yet they can report it to the Internal Revenue Service to lower their tax bill.
-- Do you agree with Warren Buffett, chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., who says lobbying is a factor in business reform because chief executive officers spend their shareholders money, directly or through trade associations, to lobby against real reform?
-- Should stock options be banned?
(Thanks to UPI's Nicholas M. Horrock and T.K. Maloy in Washington)
'CELEBRITY' KEEPS PAULA ZAHN OUT OF COURT
A Connecticut landscape designer is suing CNN news anchor Paula Zahn and her husband for failing to pay close to $200,000 for extensive landscaping at the couple's Greenwich, Conn., home, Greenwichtime.com reports.
Landscape designer Memrie Lewis alleges that as a designer, she hired other firms to do the work Zahn and her husband, Robert Cohen, wanted on their home, as per an agreement laid out in a contract.
Her complaint lists seven counts, including breach of written and oral contracts for irrigation, stonework, lighting and plants, court documents say.
Last week, the lawyer representing Zahn and her husband filed a motion for a protective order arguing Zahn should not be deposed in court because she has "celebrity status" and is unfamiliar with the landscape work, having delegated it to her husband.
"Taking Zahn's celebrity status into account and combining that status with her complete lack of knowledge of any of the facts relevant to this case, the taking of Zahn's deposition is clearly designed to harass, annoy, oppress and intimidate and, therefore, the court should grant this motion for protective order," writes Nicole Anker, Zahn's lawyer.
Eric Posmantier, Lewis' attorney, is objecting to Zahn's request for a protective order, arguing her fame should not prevent her involvement in the deposition.
-- Should Zahn's celebrity keep her from court?
-- Who should be responsible for the contract?