WASHINGTON, July 19 (UPI) -- With the decision of the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct to recommend the expulsion from Congress of Rep. James Traficant, the full House prepared Friday to take up the issue, possibly as early as next week.
Traficant, D-Ohio, was convicted April 11 of taking kickbacks and bribes, as well as racketeering and tax evasion. Sentencing is scheduled on July 30.
The ethics panel late Thursday issued a terse statement, saying it had voted unanimously to recommend expulsion. If the House follows the recommendation, Traficant would become the only the second congressman since the Civil War -- and only the fifth in the 213-year history of the Congress -- to be booted out by colleagues.
"I will not resign," Traficant vowed. "If I am to be expelled under these circumstances, then God save the republic."
Gov. Bob Taft has ordered the Ohio secretary of state and attorney general's offices to investigate how to fill Traficant's seat should he be expelled.
"Our understanding is, I would be required to call a special election," Taft told the Youngstown (Ohio) Vindicator Thursday, even if the seat is open only for a few weeks.
Traficant steadfastly denies any wrongdoing and warned the ethics committee it was acting precipitously considering the motions he has on file for a new trial. He maintains his prosecution is part of a government conspiracy and said there is no chance he would resign "even if my name was resign."
"The Justice Department has had a bull's-eye on my back for years," Traficant said. "I have friends in low places and the people of this institution have never supported me."
"Misuse of his office for personal gain is at the heart of the charges," committee attorney Robert Walker said.
The committee Thursday found Traficant guilty of nine of 10 misconduct charges.
Before the committee issued its recommendation, Traficant told reporters he plans to continue his independent campaign for re-election in his redrawn 17th District seat, even if he has to do it from a prison cell.
"I can function as effectively as any member of Congress from behind bars," he said. "Why can't the American people vote for whom they please?" Traficant has not cast a vote in Congress this year.
Traficant, a former county sheriff, won his congressional seat in 1984 after being acquitted on charges of accepting money from organized crime. During his 1983 trial, he argued he had been conducting an undercover investigation.
The last member to be expelled from Congress was Rep. Michael Myers, D-Pa., who was caught up in the Abscam investigation and was caught on videotape accepting bribes from FBI agents he believed were Arab sheiks.