Friday, June 24, 2016

West Virginia Governor Arch Moore Jr.: Infrastructure, Floods, and Extortion


Barely halfway through his first term as governor of West Virginia, Arch Alfred Moore, Jr., found himself in the crosshairs of syndicated newspaper columnist Jack Anderson. The "Washington Merry-Go-Round" column was the last place a politician wanted to see their name. If anyone knew of any unscrupulous behavior by an elected official, tipping off Anderson or predecessor Drew Pearson would all but guarantee that the malfeasance would be exposed to a national audience. The allegations raised in the column were often an early indicator that a politician would be criminally charged.

In July 1970, Anderson wrote that Moore was under investigation for possible wrongdoing related to his campaign funds. The governor was suspected of stashing away $80,000 in contributions for his own personal use. Anderson suggested that such behavior would suit Moore, since he had been known for his lavish lifestyle while serving in the House of Representatives, such as keeping a posh home on the Potomac and frequently offering to pick up the check at expensive restaurants. The column also noted that the governor's chief purchasing agent, John Bell, had been indicted for bribery and that Moore's campaign finance reports openly admitted that he had accepted money from corporations - an illegal practice under West Virginia law.

Moore refused to comment, but after the column ran he denounced it as a "despicable lie." Anderson, standing behind his charges, challenged the governor to a televised debate. When Moore refused, Anderson ran a follow-up column outlining several instances of wrongdoing. He said the governor had employed creative accounting, including wrongful tax deductions for a plane and pilot's salary used while he was in Congress. He cited conflict of interest, saying Moore had continued to receive income from his law firm as it defended the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company and simultaneously defended the company on the floor of Congress. Anderson accused Moore of pocketing hundreds of shares of stock that a client's will had requested be donated to charity. In a separate column, he criticized the "thin-skinned" governor for pressuring United Press International to replace a state capitol reporter whose stories exposed wasteful spending.

All told, Anderson calculated that Moore had reported only $45,000 in income to the IRS between 1962 and 1966 when he had actually earned $176,000. In September 1970, the columnist wrote that Moore was "frantically pulling political strings to keep from being indicted for alleged income tax violations."

If the governor was trying to avert an indictment, he was successful; he was never indicted for tax fraud during this period. Anderson mentioned the matter again in 1975, in a column accusing President Richard Nixon of appointing district attorneys who focused their efforts on indicting and unseating Democratic governors. These officials could easily have charged Moore, he suggested, but they were "so eager to prosecute Democrats" that they "let Moore off the hook."

Rumors of corruption would plague Moore for much of his political career, contributing to his polarizing legacy. He invested in a number of initiatives that sought to benefit the public as a whole in West Virginia, and was popular enough that he won an unprecedented third term in office. But two decades after Anderson first suggested that Moore was corrupt, a prosecutor would say that the governor had committed an unprecedented level of election fraud as well.

Early life

Moore was born in Moundsville, West Virginia, on April 16, 1923. Politics ran in the family; his grandfather had served as mayor of the town, and his uncle as the minority leader for the Republicans in the state house of delegates. In his senior year of high school, Moore began working an eight-hour night shift at a factory to save up money for college. He began attending Lafayette College in Pennsylvania, but cut his studies short when he was drafted into the military in 1943.

Moore quickly rose to the rank of combat sergeant in the Army during World War II. He very nearly didn't make it out of the war alive. In November 1944, while leading a platoon near Aachen, Germany, Moore and his men came under machine gun fire. Thirty-three of the 36 soldiers in the platoon did not survive the day. Moore was grievously wounded when a bullet passed through his cheek and nearly severed his tongue. Left for dead in a beet field, he was found and rescued eight hours later. After several surgeries and 13 months of therapy, he regained the ability to speak.

For his service, Moore received the Bronze Star, Combat Infantryman's Badge, and European Campaign Ribbon with three battle stars. He was discharged from the Army in 1946 and returned to his studies, this time staying closer to home. He studied political science at West Virginia University in Morgantown, earning a bachelor's degree in 1948. Moore was also active in political affairs during this time, writing the student constitution and lobbying for the construction of the state's first medical school. He stayed at the university to earn his law degree in 1951 and opened a private practice with his uncle.

Political beginnings

Following in his uncle's footsteps, Moore ran for the state house of delegates and served there from 1953 to 1955. He ran as a Republican for the House of Representatives in 1954, but lost to Democratic incumbent Robert H. Mollohan. Two years later, Moore was elected to Congress; at only 33 years old, he was the youngest representative at the time. He won the next five elections as well, serving through January 1969.
Moore shakes hands with President Dwight Eisenhower in 1960 (Source)

Moore became known as a strong supporter of public works initiatives and civil rights measures. He was among the representatives from south of the Mason-Dixon Line to support the Civil Rights Act of 1964. While some members argued that only a moderate bill would have a prayer of passing muster with Southern senators, Moore argued for a bill that provided strong civil rights guarantees. If they sent the Senate a "water bill," he suggested, they would return a "water-water bill." He was also active in shaping American policy toward Vietnam, making several trips to the country.

In 1968, Moore decided to run in the West Virginia gubernatorial election instead of seeking re-election to Congress. He managed to defeat former Governor Cecil H. Underwood for the Republican nomination, moving on to face Democratic candidate Jim Sprouse in the general election. Although the Democratic Party was powerful in the state, certain factors conspired to favor Moore. He became well-liked for his friendly, backslapping bravado and ability to remember the name of just about anybody he met. In February 1968, the party was dealt a blow when W.W. "Wally" Barron, the Democratic governor who had served between 1961 and 1965, was indicted along with five others for bribery and conspiracy related to state contracts. Barron escaped the charges, but was later convicted of tampering with the jury that had acquitted him.

An incident that occurred just two days before the election likely caused many voters to sympathize with Moore. He was arriving by helicopter at a rally at a high school football field in Hamlin when the chopper struck a flagpole and plummeted 30 feet to the ground. All four people on the helicopter survived, but Moore suffered broken ribs as a result of the crash. Nevertheless, he briefly spoke to the assembled crowd before agreeing to go to the hospital.

This resilience impressed many people, and may have caused a large number of undecided voters to support Moore. On Election Day, he defeated Sprouse by a mere 12,875 votes out of nearly 744,000 cast.

Governor of West Virginia

The governor's role in state politics was newly strengthened when Moore arrived in office. The legislature had passed the Modern Budget Amendment, which broadened the governor's budgetary powers. While the West Virginia budget had formerly been delegated to a collective of state officials, the governor now had the ability to estimate revenues and propose spending. The office was strengthened again in 1970, when the legislature passed the Governor's Succession Amendment. Governors had been forbidden to run for re-election after a single term, but the new rule allowed them to seek re-election and serve two consecutive terms.

Moore took advantage of the change in the 1972 election, becoming the first West Virginia governor to succeed himself in a century. Democrats continued to outnumber Republicans in the state by a factor of two to one, and he faced West Virginia secretary of state John "Jay" Rockefeller IV. Though Rockefeller was considered a rising star in the Democratic Party, his opposition to surface mining made him an unpopular figure among the state's powerful coal lobby. Moore was able to leverage this suspicion by accusing Rockefeller, a native New Yorker, of being an outsider who wanted to cripple the state's coal industry to benefit his wealthy family's oil interests. In his re-election bid, Moore won by a more comfortable margin of about 73,000 votes.

In his first two terms as governor of West Virginia, Moore placed heavy focus on infrastructure investment. A $350 million bond for road and bridge building projects was approved in 1968, and Moore's terms saw the completion of 182 miles of interstate highway, 184 miles of other highways, and 9,000 miles of secondary roads. He also oversaw the establishment of 44 vocational schools, 44 libraries, three community colleges, a cultural center, and the addition of gold leaf to the dome of the state capitol.

One span started during Moore's time in office was the iconic New River Gorge Bridge. The Appalachian Regional Commission, a partnership of 13 states dedicated to economic development initiatives in Appalachia, rotated its chairmanship among the member states' governors. When Moore's turn was up, he found that the commission had accumulated a substantial amount of money with no plans for its use. He proposed the construction of the bridge near Fayetteville, with an open top design to let drivers see "nothing but the sky and the world." The 3,030-foot bridge, completed in 1977 at a cost of $37 million, provided a stunning alternative to the 40-minute detour or treacherous mountain roads that had once greeted drivers who sought to cross the river. The crossing, currently the third highest bridge in the United States, was featured on the West Virginia state quarter design in 2005.

The New River Gorge Bridge under construction (Source)

Several of Moore's initiatives sought to improve benefits for the state's workers. He aimed to increase employment in West Virginia's coal mines while simultaneously supporting safety improvements and advocating for black lung disease to be classified as a mining disability. At one point, he helped negotiate a settlement to end a national coal strike. He established a free kindergarten program and supported $1,500 raises for about 17,000 teachers. He looked to improve benefits for welfare recipients, and during his administration benefits increased for about 20,000 families. About 13,000 more blind, elderly, and disabled people were also granted benefits.

In 1973, a riot broke out at the West Virginia State Penitentiary in Moundsville and five guards were taken hostage. An administrative assistant of Moore's negotiated with the prisoners and agreed to 20 of their 22 demands. The governor then visited the prison to give approval to the compromise and personally greet the hostages as they were released.

Of course, Moore's first two terms were not without controversy. Just two months into his tenure in 1969, approximately 2,600 state highway and transit workers went on strike to seek union recognition. Moore maintained that the workers did not have a right to unionize and that their action was illegal. When they failed to return to work after heavy March snows, Moore fired the striking workers so he could hire replacements to clear the roads. Many residents sympathized with the employees, and the mass termination appalled them. The governor defended himself by saying he had "no choice but to act with decisiveness." The action was appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld it.

Throughout his time in office, Moore was dogged by rumors of corruption. He was suspected of taking bribes from coal companies, although he was never formally charged with such behavior. He was criticized for giving a state contract for license plate manufacturing to an Arkansas company headed by a person who had been convicted of taking bribes, and for allegedly accepting $23,000 in illegal campaign contributions from the Ashland Oil Company.

There were further suspicions about Moore's campaign activities when his liquor commissioner, Richard Barber, was convicted on charges of racketeering, extortion, and mail fraud. Though Moore wasn't charged in the scheme, Barber was accused of using his official permission to goad liquor salesmen into donating to Moore's campaign; prosecutors also said that Barber had taken liquor from a state warehouse and sent it to the governor's mansion.

Indictment in 1975

The suspicions against Moore reached a crescendo in December 1975, when the governor and his 1972 campaign manager were indicted on federal extortion charges. It marked the first time that a sitting West Virginia governor had been charged with a crime.

Six months prior to the indictment, a grand jury had indicted two officials of the Diversified Mountaineer Corporation on charges of fraud related to the bank's fundraising activities. Both president Theodore Price and controller Roger Baird agreed to plead to lesser charges and receive reduced sentences if they gave evidence against Moore and his campaign manager, William H. Loy. The officials said that when they sought a state charter for the bank, Moore and Loy said they would only grant it if they received $25,000 from the Diversified Mountaineer Corporation. The charter was never granted, and the bank later went into receivership.

Moore maintained his innocence and accused U.S. Attorney John Field III of waging a "personal vendetta" against him. The indictment came down not long before the governor was scheduled to announce his bid for an unprecedented third term, so he decided to make this announcement early. At a press conference, Moore denied any wrongdoing and declared his candidacy, saying, "I am announcing formally to you today that I will file, that I will run, that I will be successful."

The trial added to the rumors that Moore had engaged in shady practices when it came to his campaign. It was alleged that he kept $180,000 in cash in a drawer, having never reported it with his political contributions. Price suggested that he delivered money to Moore on three visits in September and October of 1972, but Moore's defense attorney questioned how trustworthy the former bank president was. The attorney described Price as a "felon, thief, and liar," accusing him of siphoning money from the bank and giving it to Moore as a political contribution. Both Moore and Loy took the stand to testify in their own defense; they were acquitted in May 1976.

Disaster at Buffalo Creek

One of Moore's most controversial actions, taking place during the last days of his second term, was related to a disaster that had occurred in 1972. For 15 years prior to that time, the Buffalo Mining Company, a subsidiary of the Pittston Coal Company, had been using mining waste to create dams on Buffalo Creek. By 1972, three of these dams were in place on the waterway. Pittston, the largest independent coal producer in the nation, had developed an infamous record on safety. The company was cited for more than 5,000 violations in its 1971 operations alone.

In February 1972, officials with the Buffalo Mining Company grew concerned about the integrity of the dams as rain fell continuously for several days. The company informed a Pittston official about the potential danger, but no residents were warned. On the morning of February 26, the largest dam on Buffalo Creek gave way. A torrent of some 130 million gallons of water rushed downstream, obliterating the other two dams and sweeping through 16 small mining communities. The flood killed 125 people, injured another 1,100, and left about 4,000 homeless. Property damage was estimated at $50 million, with another $15 million in damage to roads in the area.

The aftermath of the Buffalo Creek flood (Source)

Jack Anderson would later accuse Moore of monopolizing three National Guard helicopters to make a grandstanding entrance to the disaster zone. The columnist said the governor commandeered two choppers for himself and other VIPs; another helicopter was reserved for the press and sent in advance so that TV crews could capture the governor's arrival. Anderson said the National Guard was left with only two choppers for essential disaster relief work; the pilots of the other three were so frustrated at having to wait for the return of the governor's party that they left to complete a few supply runs while Moore was touring Buffalo Creek by car. Moore maintained that the helicopters were used for essential personnel, and that he brought along the reporters as an afterthought.

This cordial treatment toward the press did not last long. Moore was irritated by the tone of the news reports about the flood, since he believed that they were casting aspersions on the state as a whole. In response, he temporarily barred journalists from the disaster area. Moore would also make the rather callous statement that "the state of West Virginia took a terrible beating which far overshadowed the beating which the individuals who lost their lives took, and I consider this an even greater tragedy than the accident itself."

The Pittston Coal Company argued that it was not to blame in the disaster, claiming it was an "act of God." The company said the torrential rainfall had caused the flood, since the dam had been "incapable of holding the water God poured into it." Skeptical survivors replied that they had never witnessed the Lord Almighty driving the heavy equipment used to build up the dam.

Due to Moore's cozy relationship with the state's coal industry, many residents doubted that he would be able to assign responsibility for the flood without bias. In the days after the disaster, he argued that the Buffalo Creek dams were "logical and constructive." When the governor formed a state commission to investigate the cause of the dam collapse, all of its appointees either had connections to coal mining or were sympathetic to these companies. After Moore refused calls to diversify the commission with people such as environmentalists, coal miners, or survivors of the flood, a group of citizens formed their own commission.

Surprisingly, there was general consent between the federal, state, and citizens' commissions. All three groups agreed that the Pittston Coal Company bore responsibility for the flood due to its disregard for safety practices. Moore's commission concluded that the company had been piling up the mining waste "without utilizing technology developed for earthen dams and without using or consulting with professional persons qualified to design and build such a structure." It added that since the rainfall that preceded the collapse was not abnormal, there was no evidence for the "act of God" claimed by Pittston officials. The citizens' commission report was much angrier, accusing the company of murdering the flood victims through "gross negligence" and "incomprehensible callousness."

The Pittston Coal Company was subsequently hit with a trio of civil suits. One, filed on behalf of 625 adult survivors and family members of the victims, demanded $64 million. Another suit represented 348 juvenile survivors of the disaster. The state of West Virginia sought $100 million, more than enough to cover the property damage wrought by the deluge.

By this point, Moore's attempt to run for a third term had been stopped in its tracks. Another Republican gubernatorial hopeful, Melton M. Maloney, argued that Moore could not be on the ballot. The Governor's Succession Amendment allowed a governor to be re-elected, but limited the number of consecutive terms to two; under this rule, Moore could not run in 1976 and would only be able to enter the race again in 1980. Moore argued that this provision was unconstitutional since it violated the rights of voters who would want to re-elect him, but to no avail. In a 3-2 decision, the state supreme court ruled that Moore was ineligible as a candidate in the 1976 election. Maloney lost the GOP primary to Cecil Underwood, who was defeated by Jay Rockefeller in the general election.

In his final days in office in January 1977, Moore approved a settlement of the state's claim in the Buffalo Creek flood. The Pittston Coal Company would only be required to pay a fraction of the original demand: $1 million. The paltry sum wasn't even enough to cover the cleanup costs assessed to the company by the Army Corps of Engineers. Responsibility for this debt was tied up in court until 1988, when West Virginia taxpayers were ordered to pay the $9.5 million tab owed to the federal government for cleanup costs, plus interest.

The settlement with Pittston was heavily criticized, with some residents denouncing it as an example of Moore favoring the state's business interests over people who had been harmed by the coal industry's shoddy practices. The plaintiffs in the private civil suits fared little better. Pittston agreed to pay $13.5 million to the adult survivors of the flood and their family members and $4.8 million to the juvenile survivors. After legal costs, each victim got about $13,000.

Moore later denied that he had personally negotiated the inadequate settlement of the state's lawsuit. He blamed the West Virginia state legislature, saying they had directed state attorney general Chauncey Browning to resolve the case. He said Browning visited him to request his signature, and that he later regretted giving his approval to the agreement after learning how little money Pittston would pay the state. "I had nothing to do with the lawsuit," Moore claimed. "The legislature directed the attorney general to direct the lawsuit. I wasn't asked about the amount sued for. I had nothing to do with the pleadings. My office never saw any of that."

Third term as governor

In 1978, Moore made a bid for the U.S. Senate. The incumbent candidate, Democratic Senator Jennings Randolph, spent about five times as much on his campaign as Moore. He was able to keep his seat, but won by less than 5,000 votes. Observers suggested that a significant number of Moore's supporters may have withheld their votes in this campaign so he would be able to run for governor again in 1980.

Sure enough, Moore launched a bid for a third term when this gubernatorial election came around. Once again, he was vastly outspent by his opponent, raising only $1 million for the race. Rockefeller's campaign poured $11.6 million into the race, with most of this funding coming from the governor's personal fortune. Moore's supporters began sporting bumper stickers with the slogan, "Make him spend it all, Arch." Rockefeller was re-elected with 54.5 percent of the vote.

Four years later, Moore again tried for another term as governor. Since term limits prohibited Rockefeller from running again, he instead made a bid for the Senate; he would be successful and keep his seat for the next 30 years. Moore faced off against Democratic candidate Clyde M. See, Jr., who was then the speaker of the state house of delegates. Moore was victorious in the 1984 election, making him the first and so far only West Virginia governor to serve three terms.

Moore immediately faced challenges during this term. West Virginia was suffering economically due to a slump in the coal industry, and the state had the highest unemployment rate in the nation. The governor frequently clashed with the Democratic legislature in his efforts to bolster the state's business environment. He instituted corporate tax credits to try to attract new businesses, said he would approve a casino gambling bill if one was passed by the legislature, and cut the amount of money employers were required to pay into worker's compensation by 30 percent. This action, a reversal of his earlier policy to encourage an increase in worker's compensation funds by up to 75 percent, led to a major deficit in the program. At one point, he delayed income tax returns to thousands of residents as part of the financial crunch.

Another riot broke out at the West Virginia State Penitentiary in January 1986. In response to more restrictive visitation policies and poor living conditions, such as deteriorating plumbing and overcrowding, inmates seized several areas of the prison and took more than a dozen hostages. The rioters demanded to speak with Moore, who was on vacation in Florida. He refused to consider the meeting until all of the hostages had been released.

Eventually, the hostages were freed and Moore returned to hear the prisoners' grievances. The incident hadn't ended as peacefully as the 1973 riot, though. Over the course of the crisis, the inmates put on mock trials for three prisoners accused of being informants. After they were summarily found guilty, the men were slaughtered.

Moore escorts a freed hostage to an ambulance after the 1986 prison riot in Moundsville (Source)

The riot and prisoner deaths led to a war of words between Moore and his predecessor. Moore blamed the murders on informant policies implemented by Rockefeller, an accusation which Rockefeller decried as "cowardly and contemptible." He in turn criticized the governor for being conspicuously absent for three days of the crisis, choosing instead to "leave the hard negotiating in Moundsville to his press secretary." Moore replied that he thought cutting his vacation short would only worsen the situation, so he had instead opted to stay in touch with state officials via telephone.

There were increasing suspicions about corruption in the state government. Moore was criticized for refusing to release his income tax returns in 1986. He also said he would not address renewed allegations of unethical behavior during his first two terms, calling the attacks "vicious and ugly."

One accusation nearly cost Moore his shot at re-election. In 1985, federal investigators planted a listening device in Moore's office. This was thought to be part of a federal investigation into corruption in Mingo County. Prosecutors eventually convicted county political boss and former sheriff Johnie Owens, who was charged with accepting a $100,000 bribe to influence the sheriff's race in 1982. Owens soon accused Moore of trying to give him a $12,000 bribe to influence his re-election bid in 1972. The governor responded by calling Owens a "convicted felon and an experienced liar," saying there was "not an ounce of truth in anything he says."

Nevertheless, the suspicions against Moore were strong enough that he only garnered 53 percent of the Republican primary vote in the 1988 gubernatorial race. It was enough to defeat John Raese, a millionaire from Morgantown, but a poor sign for the general election. In November, Democratic candidate Gaston Caperton won by a healthy majority of 58.9 percent.

Extortion, fraud, and obstruction of justice

Two years later, Moore made a startling admission. Federal officials announced on April 12, 1990, that the former West Virginia governor had been indicted on charges of extortion, mail fraud, tax fraud, and obstruction of justice. They also announced that Moore had agreed to plead guilty to all charges. The indictment revealed that Moore had engaged in illegal campaign activities during the 1984 and 1988 elections, corruption during his third term in office, and attempts to hinder the grand jury investigation by falsifying documents, lying to federal investigators, and trying to convince witnesses to give false testimony.

Since Moore had vigorously denied charges of corruption for so many years, the admission of guilt came as a surprise to many residents. Rather than fighting the indictment as he had in 1975, he was simply giving in. "This news will be greeted with a great joy by some in the state of West Virginia. There will be others who will be sincerely grieved by reason of their devotion to me and my family," said Moore. "I know I have their understanding and love. For that, I shall be ever grateful."

Caperton was quick to criticize his predecessor, proclaiming, "I am confident that West Virginians will realize that not only did I inherit a government that was financially bankrupt, but ethically bankrupt as well." Edgar Heiskell, the state GOP chairman, described Moore's admission of corruption as "a great tragedy for the state and its good people." He cautioned residents not to consider the indictment an act of political vengeance, noting how the case had been handled by a Republican prosecutor and the Justice Department in a Republican presidential administration.

The investigation into Moore was part of a larger probe into corruption in West Virginia's state government. Prosecutors would also win convictions against five legislators, three lobbyists, two state government workers, and a state senate aide.

Federal prosecutors had used a colleague of Moore's to secure some damning evidence against the former governor. In January, Moore had met with his 1988 campaign manager, John Leaberry, to discuss the finances of that race. During the conversation, he noted how he had accepted illegal contributions and discussed strategies for how he and Leaberry could deny wrongdoing. Unbeknownst to Moore, Leaberry was wearing a wire. Investigators had already confronted him with charges of filing a false tax return in 1988; as part of his own plea agreement, he had agreed to record the conversation to expose Moore. When investigators met with Moore, they played the tape to convince him not to contest the charges.

Moore was also accused of directing $100,000 in illegal contributions into his gubernatorial campaign in 1984. Other charges held that he had filed false tax returns in 1984 and 1985 by failing to report $72,500 he had received from lobbyists and corporations.

The most serious charge against Moore related to West Virginia's black lung fund, which coal companies paid into to support claims by the state's miners. When H. Paul Kizer, the operator of the Maben Energy Corporation, asked for Moore's assistance in getting a $2.3 million reimbursement from the fund, the governor agreed to help out. However, Moore also wanted a 25 percent kickback. Kizer agreed to pay him $573,721.47, and the governor drew up falsified backdated documents to create the illusion that this payment was a legitimate contingency fee.

Kizer also suggested that Moore had demanded money in exchange for freeing the coal operator from a murder charge. This charge stemmed from a strange series of events, starting in March 1986 when a man named Jimmy Vickers caught Kizer in bed with his girlfriend and assaulted them both. Kizer allegedly went to one of his employees, James Bonham, for help in seeking retribution against Vickers. Bonham hired two men to confront Vickers at his trailer and one, James Davis, shot and killed Kizer's assailant.

Both Kizer and Bonham were arrested and went to trial in 1988. Kizer later claimed that Moore solicited a $50,000 donation, laundered through a Republican National Committee account, to assist with his campaign. In exchange, Moore promised to pardon Kizer if he was convicted. While Bonham was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter and conspiracy to commit malicious wounding, Kizer was acquitted.

Moore was never charged for this alleged extortion, but prosecutors said the federal judge would be made aware of other crimes they believed Moore had committed. As part of his agreement to plead guilty, they would not pursue these charges. Moore dutifully pleaded to a five-count indictment on May 8. He faced a maximum sentence of 36 years in prison and a $1.2 million fine.

On June 28, less than two weeks before his sentencing date, Moore tried to withdraw his plea. He claimed that the original plea had only been an attempt by his lawyer to test how strong the prosecution's case was. He also complained that he had been forced into the plea, saying he had been given only one day to review the agreement. He accused the prosecution of threatening to file more than 20 counts against him, including federal racketeering charges, if he declined. The judge refused to let him back out of the agreement.

Moore's sentencing went ahead as planned on July 10. Assistant U.S. Attorney John Campbell described Moore's acts as "a scheme to run the election outside the limit of the law." Another prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joe Savage, said Moore had committed election fraud on an unprecedented scale and shown no remorse for his actions. "It is hard not to admire the intellect, determination, resilience, the sheer endurance and force of personality that is Arch A. Moore, Jr.," he said. "But it is likewise impossible not to loathe the duplicity, the greed, and unparalleled corruption perpetrated by this same man."

The sentencing also revealed more petty instances of corruption. Savage said that Moore had taken a vehicle on a test drive in 1984 and never brought it back to the dealership. He said Moore had only paid the business in 1990 after he came under investigation.

Moore's defense attorney, William Hundley, denied that Moore had been uncooperative with prosecutors. He also said the campaign financing corruption committed by the former governor was a less serious offense than the direct embezzlement of state funds. "I submit he served well and honorably."

Moore was sentenced to five years and 10 months in prison as well as a $170,000 fine. Under federal guidelines, he was required to serve at least two-and-a-half years behind bars before he could be considered for parole. He was also forbidden from seeking public office again. "It's a landmark case," said U.S. Attorney Michael Carey. "I think it sends a very clear message. If you violate the public trust, you go to jail."

Later in the year, the state of West Virginia sued Moore for damages related to his misconduct. He settled in 1996 for $750,000, but didn't admit fault. In October 1991, he was disbarred. After two years and eight months in prison, he was transferred to home confinement to serve the last four months of his sentence before his release. He subsequently began working as a consultant.

Final years

For the rest of his life, Moore would try to vacate his conviction and get his law license restored. He argued that he was factually or legally innocent of the charges against him, and that he had received poor legal advice from his defense counsel. The Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected his attempts in 1991, and the Supreme Court did so as well in 1995.

Moore's attempts to regain his law license extended into the 21st century. At one point, he declared, "I want to die a lawyer." The West Virginia Supreme Court issued a particularly strong rebuke against him in 2003, denying his request and accusing him of a "lack of candor" and "pattern of deception" in his post-conviction appeals. In comparing the transcript of his recorded conversation with Leaberry with his testimony before the court, the justices noted that he "was not only willing to conspire to fabricate testimony when facing indictment in 1990, but, sadly, that he was just as willing to provide disingenuous testimony in this proceeding in the hope of reinstating his law license." The court accused him of "a willingness - on a sustained and knowing basis - to be dishonest, to deceive, to conceal the truth and to bend, manipulate and violate the law, for personal and professional gain."

The denial of wrongdoing, which the court described as a continued unwillingness to accept responsibility for his actions, continued into Moore's later years. While promoting his biography Arch in 2008, Moore told a country club audience that he had considered apologizing for his criminal conviction but decided that he could not do it. "I cannot do that today or any other day," he said. "I am sorry for what my family went through. I am sorry for what my fellow West Virginians went through, but I cannot apologize."

Moore with daughter Shelley Moore Capito on his 90th birthday in 2013 (Source)

One of Moore's children, Shelley Moore Capito, followed in her father's footsteps and pursued a political career. She was elected to the House of Representatives in 2000 and remained there for seven terms before winning a seat in the Senate. Moore died in Charleston on January 7, 2015, one day after his daughter was sworn into her new position.


National Governors Association, The Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, The West Virginia Encyclopedia, The West Virginia Division of Culture and History, "Arch Moore Hurt in W.Va. Copter Crash" in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Nov. 4 1968, "West Virginia Governor Stands Accused" in the Lewiston Daily Sun on Jul. 24 1970, "Anderson Challenges Moore" in the Prescott Evening Courier on Aug. 9 1970, "Reveals Scandal, Loses Job" in the Free Lance-Star on Aug. 25 1970, "U.S. Quietly Plans Extensive Aid to Israel" in the Victoria Advocate on Sep. 24 1970, "Moore Commandeers 'Copters During Flood" in the Spokane Daily Chronicle on Jun. 6 1972, "Bare Nixon Plot Against Governors" in the Lewiston Daily Sun on Dec. 1 1975, "Governor of West Virginia Pleads Innocent to Extortion" in the Eugene Register-Guard on Dec. 19 1975, "Moore, Aide Acquitted of Extortion" in the Observer-Reporter on May 6 1976, "Hard Work, Uphill Fights Nothing New for Gov. Arch Moore" in the West Virginia Mountain Messenger on Sep. 1 1980, "Arch Moore Confident of Gubernatorial Victory" in the Grant County Press on Oct. 29 1980, "Another Comeback for Arch Moore?" in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on May 28 1984, "Moore Makes West Virginia Race" in the Lawrence Journal-World on Sep. 25 1984, "13 Hostages Are Held in Prison Riot" in the Evening Independent on Jan. 2 1986, "Prison Riot Ignites Name Calling" in the Ludington Daily News on Jan. 3 1986, "Prison Riot Inflames Moore, Rockefeller Feud" in the Gainesville Sun on Jan. 5 1986, "Riot-Torn Prison Said Nightmare For All" in the Gadsden Times on Jan. 5 1986, "Incumbents Fare Well in Primaries" on UPI on May 11 1988, "Ex-West Virginia Governor Admits Corruption Schemes" in the New York Times on Apr. 13 1990, "W.Va.'s Ex-Gov. Moore Facing 36 Years in Kickback Admission" in the Pittsburgh Press on Apr. 13 1990, "Turbulence Runs with Arch Moore" in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Apr. 17 1990, "Former West Virginia Governor Pleads Guilty to Felony Counts" on May 8 1990, "Former W.Va. Governor Pleads Guilty to Felonies" in the Observer-Reporter on May 9 1990, "GOP Committee Laundering of $50,000 Alleged" in the Washington Post on Jun. 1 1990, "Arch Moore Withdraws Guilty Pleas" in the Observer-Reporter on Jun. 29 1990, "Former West Virginia Governor is Sentenced to 5 Years For Graft" in the New York Times on Jul. 11 1990, "Moore Gets Jail Term, Fined $170,000" in the Observer-Reporter on Jul. 11 1990, "W.Va.'s Moore Jail Sentence is Almost 6 Years" in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Jul. 11 1990, "Gorge Bridge Turns 30 Today" in the Register Herald on Oct. 21 2007, "A Deeper Look at the Politicians Who Passed the Civil Rights Bill of 1964" in Smithsonian on Jun. 30 2014, "Former Gov. Arch Moore Dies at 91" in the Charleston Gazette-Mail on Jan. 7 2015, "Arch Moore Left Dynamic, Controversial Legacy" on MetroNews on Jan. 7 2015, "Arch Moore, Trailblazing West Virginia Governor, Dies at 91" in the New York Times on Jan. 8 2015, "Arch Moore, Charismatic W.Va. Governor Convicted of Corruption, Dies at 91" in the Washington Post on Jan. 8 2015, The Encyclopedia of Strikes in American History edited by Aaron Brenner and Benjamin Day and Immanuel Ness, States of Siege: U.S. Prison Riots 1970-1986 by Bert Useem and Peter Kimball, Encyclopedia of White-Collar Crime edited by Jurg Gerber and Eric L. Jensen, State v. Bonham, Lawyer Disciplinary Board v. Arch A. Moore Jr.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Jim Traficant: beamed out

Former U.S. Rep. James Traficant, seen here during a House Ethics Committee hearing in 2002, served seven years in prison on federal bribery and racketeering charges. Traficant died on Saturday. He was 73.
Jim Traficant appears before the House Ethics Committee after his criminal conviction in 2002

The cult of personality that has grown around Donald Trump, the current front-runner for the Republican nomination for President in this year's election, has left many people wondering why he holds any appeal at all. Trump's supporters hold him up as someone who can boost the American economy, and whose frankness will prove a welcome challenge to political correctness and "politics as usual" in the nation's capital. Opponents see a narcissistic blowhard who offers an authoritarian and impractical solution to illegal immigration while failing to denounce support from white supremacists.

It all must seem like deja vu to the voters of Youngstown, Ohio. For nearly 20 years, their representative in Congress was a brash man with an awful toupee and a consistent record of irritating his colleagues.

But while James A. Traficant Jr. was largely despised in the House of Representatives, he enjoyed plenty of support at home. Over the years, he built up a reputation as a person who sought to fight government waste and bring economic development to a chronically depressed district in the Rust Belt. Even after his career ended ignominiously, with a conviction on corruption charges and expulsion from Congress, he enjoyed plenty of support at home.

Jim Traficant was born in Youngstown on May 8, 1941. He graduated from Cardinal Mooney High School in 1959 and went on to attend the University of Pittsburgh, where he earned a bachelor of science degree in 1963. While at the school, Traficant became quarterback of the football team and played alongside Mike Ditka, who would go on to become a renowned coach for the Chicago Bears. Traficant was a late round pick for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but didn't make the team. He also tried unsuccessfully to play with the Oakland Raiders.

Even at this stage in his life, Traficant earned a reputation for speaking his mind. While still attending the University of Pittsburgh, he made headlines for insulting the school in an interview. He had made two mistakes so far in his life, he claimed: "Coming to Pitt was the first. Staying at Pitt was the second." After he graduated, he spent some time working for insurance companies before becoming the consumer finance coordinator for the Youngstown Area Community Action Council in February 1967.

By this time, Youngstown had fallen on hard times. The city had been a center of steel production for decades, and its population had swelled to 130,000 in 1930. Mills provided work for thousands of people, and demand for steel boomed during World War II. But increased globalization and a decline in the steel industry caused Youngstown's economy to stagnate. Organized crime seized the opportunity to take control of city and county government posts, with mobsters from Cleveland and Pittsburgh battling for influence. Higher poverty and the prevalence of illegal drugs added to the persistent problems in the region.

Traficant turned his attention to the drug problem in 1972, becoming the coordinator for Mahoning County Drug Programs. He later became executive director of the organization. He returned to the University of Pittsburgh and earned a master's degree in administration in 1973. He got a second master's degree, this one in counseling, from Youngstown State University in 1976. In November 1977, Traficant became the chairman of the Mahoning County Welfare Advisory Board.

Traficant tried his hand at politics in 1980, when he ran for the Democratic nomination for sheriff of Mahoning County. He managed to defeat incumbent George D. Tablack in the primary, and won the general election despite the party's decision not to endorse him. Among the changes Traficant made while in office was the decision to institute 10-hour work shifts for deputies and end the use of county cars and credit cards.

In October 1981, a Mahoning County reserve deputy was murdered. While transporting a dangerous prisoner, John Litch Jr.'s vehicle was rear-ended by a vehicle driven by the prisoner's half-brother. When Litch got out to investigate, the driver shot and killed him. Both the prisoner and his half-brother managed to escape, but were later apprehended. Litch was the first Youngstown area law enforcement officer to be killed in the line of duty since 1952, although four other police officers had been shot during the year. Traficant said he accepted responsibility for Litch's death, but came under investigation after it was reported that the sheriff's office had been tipped off about the possibility of an ambush and not taken any action. A grand jury decided not to charge him with any malfeasance.

One incident which helped give Traficant a folk hero reputation occurred in 1983. By law, the sheriff was required to sign foreclosure deeds after a property was sold at auction. When a court presented Traficant with 10 foreclosure notices for the residences of unemployed mill workers, he refused to sign them until he knew "the disposition of those people displaced from their homes." In February, he was found in contempt of court and ordered to spend 100 days in jail.

Admirers would thereafter remember Traficant as a sheriff who was unwilling to carry out foreclosures on the downtrodden. However, he was imprisoned for only three days before agreeing to serve the notices, after which he was released. Still, Traficant continued to show sympathy for those who were about to lose their homes. In December 1987, while serving in Congress, he successfully created a $3.5 million program to provide counseling for people who were facing foreclosure.

By the time Traficant did his brief stint behind bars, he was facing a much longer prison sentence. Although the Pittsburgh and Cleveland crime families were locked in a violent power struggle for control of Youngstown, they collaborated when it came to keeping local political figures in their pocket. Federal investigators had built a case that Traficant had received $163,000 in campaign contributions from both mob factions in exchange for turning a blind eye to their criminal activities.

As Traficant told it, Cleveland mob boss Charles Carrabia contributed $103,000 toward his primary campaign. Carrabia also took him to meet with James Prato, a leader in the Pittsburgh crime syndicate, a few days before the primary. Prato handed Traficant an envelope stuffed with $55,000 to add to the campaign. However, Traficant soon gave the money to Carrabia with instructions to return it to Prato. He didn't think he was going to win the primary anyway, and he wasn't keen on getting mixed up with the area's criminal syndicates.

After his unexpected victory in the primary, Traficant claimed, he planned on using Carrabia's support to help end Prato's criminal activities in Youngstown. He met with Carrabia on several occasions after the primary, promising to have the sheriff's office hassle the Pittsburgh faction. Unbeknownst to him, Carrabia was having several of the meetings recorded. And when other meetings with Prato failed to materialize, Traficant suspected that Carrabia was the weaker of the two mobsters.

Soon after Traficant won the general election, Carrabia and his brother scheduled a meeting with the sheriff to play one of the tapes. Carrabia threatened to turn over the incriminating evidence to the FBI if the new sheriff did not cooperate with him. Traficant claims that he was defiant, telling Carrabia's brother to "shove that tape right up his fucking ass." Though the recording would have implicated Carrabia, it also had the potential to bring down both Traficant and Prato.

But in December 1980, Carrabia disappeared and was never heard from again. Traficant took office in January 1981, and within three months the mobster who had recorded the meeting (Joe DeRose) was also missing. Both men were presumed dead.

The FBI still got wind of the recordings, finding some of the audio tapes during a search of DeRose's home. Agents confronted Traficant on June 15, 1981, playing one of the recordings for him. He confirmed that the voice of the person meeting with Carrabia, and discussing the exchange of money, was his own. He also drew up a statement about how he had accepted campaign funds from Carrabia and taken (and returned) additional money from Prato.

Both the tapes and the document would prove to be controversial. The FBI referred to it as a confession, saying it confirmed that Traficant had colluded with the mob and taken bribes to favor one faction in the war for Youngstown. They offered to grant Traficant immunity if he assisted in an investigation to crack down on organized crime in the region, but said he would have to resign as sheriff to accept the deal. Traficant met several times with the FBI, trying unsuccessfully to negotiate an alternate arrangement where he could offer assistance in the investigation while staying in his elected role; the FBI refused. In addition to this fundamental disagreement, Traficant was worried what would happen to him if he became a key witness against the mob; he had started carrying a .38-caliber handgun on him at all times after Carrabia and DeRose vanished.

In August 1982, a grand jury indicted Traficant for tax evasion as well as bribery conspiracy under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, which had been passed in 1970 to target organized criminal enterprises. Several organizations and officials had been calling for him to step down as sheriff prior to the indictment, including the judges of the Court of Common Pleas. Traficant refused, saying at one point, "To all those politicians who want me to resign: go fuck yourselves."

Though an attorney represented Traficant for the early stages of the case, the relationship eventually grew strained. Ignoring the legal advice to keep quiet before the trial, Traficant frequently ranted to the press about the FBI and IRS. He accused several public officials of having ties to organized crime, alleging that mobsters were working with the prosecutors to take him down. He also accused the FBI of forging his confession and doctoring the recordings. The head of the Mahoning County Democratic Party, who happened to be Prato's lawyer, petitioned unsuccessfully to have Traficant sent to an insane asylum.

When the case went to trial in May 1983, Traficant would act as his own lawyer. The sheriff had no experience in the courtroom, and later admitted that he first thought RICO referred to a crime family. If convicted, he faced up to 23 years in prison. Traficant made several unsuccessful attempts to have the trial moved from Cleveland to Mahoning County, saying the case was unique to that area. The judge refused to grant Traficant's request to have the jury made up entirely of Youngstown residents, although three people from the city were ultimately selected as jurors.

During the seven-week trial, the prosecution relied on the recordings, Traficant's signed statement, and testimony from several witnesses who said they were aware of the sheriff's links to the mob. The testimony included a Mahoning County deputy who said Traficant asked him at least five times to give him a superficial gunshot wound to make it seem like the sheriff had been targeted in a mob hit. Traficant admitted to the jury that he had taken money from both the Cleveland and Pittsburgh mob families. However, he said it was part of a sting operation to infiltrate the organizations and entrap the mobsters. He claimed that the statement to the FBI had been coerced, and that he didn't tell agents about his activities because he did not trust them.

He also brought up his background in helping crack down on drug abuse in Mahoning County, saying he wouldn't have gone from this profession to helping mobsters involved in the narcotics trade. Indeed, Traficant declared during his first campaign for the House of Representatives that he would seek to impose the death penalty for certain drug offenses. He kept his promise, proposing such a measure in March 1985.

On June 15, 1983, the jury acquitted Traficant of all charges. Jurors said they had discounted both the confession and the audio recordings since they couldn't be sure of their authenticity. It was an astonishing result that only added to Traficant's reputation. Stephen Jigger, head of the prosecution team, said he thought the sheriff's guilt had been proven without a doubt, but that Traficant had managed to direct the jury's attention to irrelevant points. He described Traficant as "an intelligent, articulate, and aggressive defendant" as well as a "skilled politician."

Indeed, the acquittal would prove to be a springboard that brought Traficant to national office. In 1984, he defeated six other candidates for the Democratic nomination for his House of Representatives district. He went on to defeat the incumbent Republican congressman, Lyle Williams, by almost 20,000 votes. Once again, he managed the victory even though his party declined to endorse him.

The corruption trial also resulted in another curious outcome. In August 1984, the IRS informed Traficant that he owed taxes on the $163,000 he had admitted to taking from the crime families. When he hadn't paid by the middle of 1985, they pressed the issue. The trial was delayed until after the 1986 election, when Traficant was re-elected to the House.

The victory at the criminal trial had made Traficant confident that he would be able to represent himself once again. The four-day trial took place in the U.S. Tax Court in Cleveland in November 1986. Traficant claimed that he had only accepted the money so it could not be used against him in the 1980 sheriff's race, and had returned it after the election. The signed statement and audio tapes were once again introduced as evidence.

Traficant did not have as much luck in these proceedings, and he held out slim hope for victory. "This is America. Even though this is the IRS, you never know," he said. "This stumbling jackass may pull it off."

He didn't; in September 1987, the court found in favor of the federal government. Traficant was ordered to pay back taxes on $108,000 in mob contributions that he had failed to report, plus interest and penalties. He challenged the decision soon after, but an appeals court upheld the verdict in August 1989. Four months later, he failed to meet a deadline to bring the matter before the Supreme Court.

Traficant would target the IRS at several points during his career. Anticipating his defeat in the tax case, he introduced legislation in April 1987 to protect the taxpayer from an "overzealous IRS." He later proposed legislation to limit the ability of the IRS to seize property from people charged with tax evasion, and his suggestions were folded into a tax reform bill approved by President Bill Clinton in 1998. Traficant was also pleased with the "Taxpayer Bill of Rights" passed by Congress in April 1996.

The Washington Post would describe Traficant as "one of the most deliberately outrageous members of Congress in history." He was known for a terribly unfashionable wardrobe, including polyester or denim suits, skinny ties, and cowboy boots. His ridiculous appearance was further enhanced by an enormous mound of perpetually mussed-up hair. "He looked less smart then he was," recalled Charles Straub, Traficant's former press secretary. "It put people off guard. It was part of his mystique as just an average citizen. But he was a very shrewd politician."

Traficant also became famous for a series of rambling, sometimes profane speeches on the floor of Congress. Representatives have the ability to speak on any subject, provided the remarks do not go longer than one minute. Traficant capitalized on this privilege to take numerous potshots at what he considered to be overreach, inefficiency, or foolishness on the part of the federal government.

The rants were often related to an obscure topic. In 2001, in between one-minute speeches by congressmen who advocated a United Nations war crimes tribunal for Saddam Hussein and a balanced energy plan for California, Traficant used his time to comment on a St. Louis alderwoman who had urinated in a trash can so she wouldn't have to yield the floor during a filibuster. He typically ended the speeches by shaking his head in dismay and making a Star Trek reference by declaring, "Beam me up, Mr. Speaker."

Criticizing foreign aid to the Soviet Union on one occasion, Traficant said, "Russia gets $15 billion in foreign aid from Uncle Sam. In exchange, Uncle Sam gets nuclear missiles pointed at our cities, two tape decks, and three cases of vodka." At another point, he said, "The Lord's Prayer is 66 words, the Gettysburg Address is 286 words, the Declaration of Independence is 1,322 words. U.S. regulation on the sale of cabbage—that is right, cabbage—is 27,000 words. Now if that is not enough to give Hulk Hogan's dictionary a hernia, check this out. Regulatory red tape in America costs taxpayers $400 billion every year, over $4,000 each year, every year, year in, year out, for every family. Beam me up."

Traficant's fellow congressmen were particularly irked in October 1990, when he made a remark about "political prostitutes" in Congress. He subsequently apologized "to all the hookers of American for associating them with the United States Congress."

These insults and scattershot criticisms did little to endear Traficant to other members of Congress, but they earned him a good deal of popularity in his home district. He would be re-elected to another eight terms after 1984, with his constituents praising what they saw as brutal honesty and an effort to shake up the nation's capital.

"We don't have much hope right now, and things are getting more dismal by the day. But one of the few things we still have faith in is that guy over there, Jim Traficant," said an unemployed ironworker who visited Traficant in Washington in 1985. "We know he'll fight for us. He is our blessing." Tim Ryan, who worked as an aide to Traficant, recalled the congressman by saying, "He was always rooting for the underdog, and was willing to spend his time and energy trying to help people that nobody else would listen to. There wasn't a guy who had more charisma, or more of an ability to make someone feel special and part of the fun that was going on." Supporters gave him the affectionate nickname Jimbo.

Although his outlandish appearance and statements dominated Traficant's personality, he also developed a substantial record of bringing federal assistance to his district. He succeeded in bringing a Saturn automotive plant to the Mahoning Valley and traveled to Japan to try to convince Mitsubishi to set up a similar facility in the region. He revived a proposal to build a canal between Lake Erie and the Ohio River. He also managed to get federal funding for the construction of two federal courthouses, a VA clinic, and a convocation center in Youngstown during his time in office. In May 1998, he secured $46 million for local road projects.

Although he worked to get federal spending directed to his home district, Traficant called for reduction in expenditures in other areas. He was particularly opposed to foreign aid, and also called for less government regulation on businesses. He called for "Buy American" provisions in spending bills and expressed opposition to free trade agreements. Traficant also supported tough measures against illegal immigration, calling for the deportation of anyone who entered the country unlawfully; he also wanted American soldiers stationed on the border with Mexico to stop anyone trying to sneak into the United States.

Traficant occasionally flirted with the idea of running for a different office. He formed a committee to explore a presidential bid in April 1987, and managed to get enough votes to send a single delegate to the Democratic National Convention. He ended this effort a year later, pledging the delegate to support Governor Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts. After winning a fourth term to the House of Representatives in 1994, he said he was considering whether to run in Ohio's gubernatorial or Senate race in 1998.

Traficant earned plenty of criticism in the late 1980s and early 1990s when he came to the defense of two men accused of war crimes during World War II. He first offered a vocal defense of John Demjanjuk, a Ukrainian-born retired Ohio autoworker. Demjanjuk was accused of being a notoriously cruel guard, nicknamed "Ivan the Terrible," at the Treblinka death camp. Extradited to Israel in 1986, he was convicted two years later and sentenced to death. The Israeli Supreme Court overturned his conviction in 1993 after determining that there was insufficient evidence to convict Demjanjuk, and Traficant claimed his appeal had led to the reexamination of the case. He flew to Israel to accompany Demjanjuk back to the United States. Demjanjuk's case would persist for almost another 20 years; he was later deported to Germany, convicted of war crimes, and died in 2012 while the case was under appeal.

Traficant with John Demjanjuk on a flight back to the United States in 1993

Arthur Rudolph also earned Traficant's sympathy. Rudolph had also been accused of abusing prisoners while working as a Nazi rocket scientist, although he was later admitted into the United States and worked with NASA on the Apollo program. In 1984, he surrendered his citizenship and left the country as part of an agreement with the U.S. government, ultimately ending up in West Germany. In May 1990, Traficant angered the Jewish community when he said that Rudolph should be allowed to return to the United States and that a "powerful Jewish lobby" was trying to intimidate government officials.

Traficant's contentious relationship with the Democrats continued in Congress. A January 1998 analysis of his voting record found that he had gone against his own party 77 percent of the time. He voted against Clinton's budget in May 1993, but did not support impeachment of the President in 1998. Traficant also held pro-life views and was in favor of organized prayer in public schools. After the massacre at Columbine High School in 1998, he called for an end to the constitutional ban on school prayer, saying, "People who pray together are not likely to kill one another."

The Democrats tolerated Traficant's maverick ways until early 2001. The elections of 2000 had demonstrated just how divided the nation was in terms of political opinions. In addition to the controversial presidential election, where Republican candidate George W. Bush was sent to the White House after a Supreme Court decision to end a ballot recount in Florida, both chambers of Congress were split almost evenly between the major political parties. The Republicans continued to hold a majority, although it had dwindled to seven seats.

On January 3, 2001, the members of the House of Representatives cast their votes for Speaker of the House. The Republicans put forth Dennis Hastert of Illinois while the Democrats backed Dick Gephardt of Missouri. Traficant broke from his party and supported Hastert, earning him a standing ovation from the Republican representatives. He was the only Democrat to support Hastert, who was chosen as Speaker with 221 votes.

Angered by Traficant's apostasy, the Democratic leadership kicked him out of the party caucus, stripped him of his seniority, and removed all of his committee assignments. The punishment made him the first rank-and-file congressman to serve without a committee assignment in almost a century. There was some speculation that Traficant would defect to the other side of the aisle, but he never did so. House Majority Leader Dick Armey later said that the GOP never offered Traficant a place in their caucus, and Traficant never requested one. "I have told Jim myself, and told him some time ago, it would not be in his best interest to join the Republican Party," Armey said in May 2001. "He doesn't get his mile of slack if he's a Republican, and Jim needs a mile of slack."

The Republicans may also have been reluctant to extend an invitation to a congressman who seemed to be on the verge of a criminal indictment. Several of Traficant's associates had been convicted in a far-ranging investigation in eastern Ohio, and observers suggested that it would only be a matter of time before they charged him.

Organized crime had once again provided the impetus for the investigation. Paul Gains, a newly elected prosecutor in Mahoning County who had ousted an incumbent with mob ties, was shot three times at his home and left for dead on Christmas Eve of 1996. Investigators began unraveling a web of corrupt activities, with the first indictments coming down in December 1997. More than 70 people would ultimately be convicted, including the former Mahoning County prosecutor, a sheriff, and several local businessmen. The FBI subpoenaed Traficant's payroll records and other information in December 1999, and began questioning people about possible unpaid perks offered to the congressman two months later.

As a result of the looming charges, Traficant had faced a tougher than expected challenge in the 2000 election. Robert Hagan, a state senator and one of the challengers in the Democratic primary, mounted an especially spirited offense. He accused Traficant of alienating people with his off-color behavior, driving businesses out of Youngstown, and failing to adequately represent his district. Hagan also happened to be the brother-in-law of Kate Mulgrew, an actress on Star Trek: Voyager. He capitalized on this coincidence by recruiting her for his TV ads to play on Traficant's catchphrase. Democratic voters in Youngstown were urged by Captain Janeway herself to "beam out" Traficant.

Traficant had triumphed in the March primary, but only came away with 51 percent of the vote. He had won the general election by a similarly tight margin, with about 50 percent of the voters favoring him in a three-way race.

These victories were all the more remarkable in that they occurred as several of Traficant's associates were being convicted. Two of his former aides, George M. Alexander and Charles O'Nesti, pleaded guilty shortly before the primary to racketeering conspiracy related to former Youngstown mob boss Lenine Strollo. Traficant, realizing that a case was likely forming against him, accused the federal government of targeting him because he had a pending bill supporting an investigation of the FBI's botched raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. In August 2000, he ignored a court order to turn over pertinent information.

In October, contractor A. David Sugar was convicted of perjury, obstruction of justice, and witness tampering after admitting to lying to a federal grand jury. Sugar had told his secretary to lie about fake invoices related to work done at Traficant's Ohio farm. Another person who had done work at this site, Clarence T. Broad, pleaded guilty in November to trying to influence a federal witness.

Traficant was indicted on May 4, 2001, on 10 counts. The charges, unrelated to the assassination attempt on Gains, included bribery, fraud, racketeering, and tax evasion. Prosecutors charged that the congressman had demanded monthly kickbacks of as much as $2,500 from his employees in order for them to keep their jobs. Staffers had also been ordered to do personal work for Traficant, including baling hay at his farm and doing upkeep on a Potomac River houseboat where the congressman had formerly lived while in Washington, D.C. In addition, he was accused of promising favors for businessmen who gave him free items and services, including the use of a Corvette and Avanti luxury car and the construction of a pole barn on his farm. In one instance, Traficant had helped businessman John J. Cafaro win approval from the Federal Aviation Administration for a laser guidance technology developed by Cafaro's company; Cafaro had rewarded him with a gift of thousands of dollars to pay off and repair Traficant's houseboat.

Photo detail
Traficant's mugshot, dated May 11, 2001, following his indictment

The case went to trial in February 2002 in Cleveland. Once again, Traficant opted to represent himself instead of hiring professional counsel, and the courtroom was not immune from the bizarre behavior he often exhibited in Congress. After an FBI agent said none of Traficant's associates was asked to wear a hidden microphone because the congressman often hugged them and slapped them on the back, Traficant asked almost every witness, "Did I ever hug you?" He repeated other questions dozens of times, described the prosecution as having "the testicles of an ant," directly accused one witness of lying under oath, and objected to any IRS testimony since they represented "thieves who prey upon the American people." Traficant said he engaged in these antics because he considered the courtroom a "theater," but later chalked it up to inexperience; he was not a lawyer, he pointed out, but rather the "son of a truck driver."

On April 12, after 10 weeks of testimony, Traficant was convicted on all counts. He quickly blamed the trial process, complaining about the jurors from the Cleveland area. He had tried unsuccessfully for a change of venue or to get a jury of only Youngstown residents. "Very few people on this jury really knew Jim Traficant or had an understanding of Jim Traficant. I think that would have made a big difference," he declared. Indeed, Traficant continued to enjoy a great deal of support at home. Youngstown area radio show host Dan Ryan fielded several calls from residents after the conviction, many of whom defended the congressman; one said that plenty of other politicians took bribes, and that Traficant's misbehavior was paltry by comparison.

Five days after the verdict, the House Committee on Standards and Official Conduct met to determine a punishment for the convicted congressman. Traficant asked committee chairman Joel Hefley, a Colorado Republican, to "go light." But he also put his typical devil-may-care attitude on display. He complained that there was no coffee available at the hearings, threatened to call for the expulsion of all committee members, and said he'd like to kick his prosecutors in the crotch. The committee found Traficant guilty of nine ethics violation and, on July 18, 2002, made the unanimous recommendation that he be expelled.

In Ohio, both political parties welcomed the news. A Democratic spokeswoman said the party had had nothing to do with Traficant for the past two years. Jason Mauk, speaking for the state's Republican Party, declared, "It's embarrassing to think that Jim Traficant is the national face of Ohio politics right now."

Typically, congressmen subject to a criminal conviction or other scandal decide to resign before Congress can take any punitive action. Only four congressmen had been expelled from the House of Representatives prior to the recommended action against Traficant. Three had been thrown out during the Civil War, for fighting on behalf of the Confederacy while representing border states of the Union. The fourth, Democratic Representative Michael Myers of Pennsylvania, was expelled after his conviction in the Abscam scandal in 1980.

Even when faced with prison time and joining this none-too-appealing club, Traficant remained jocular. He suggested that he would go to the proceedings in a denim suit and show off his impression of Michael Jackson's moonwalk on the floor of Congress.

On July 24, the House took up the expulsion measure. Anticipating a harangue from Traficant, Speaker Hastert opened the proceedings by reminding members about the rules against abusive language. The warning did little to temper the rambling statement offered by Traficant. He claimed that the witnesses had a grudge against him, but also accused the government into coercing their testimony, crying, "I'll go to jail. But I'll be damned if I'll be pressured by a government that pressured these witnesses to death." Traficant suggested that the federal judge at his trial had been hostile and that Attorney General Janet Reno, whom he had accused of treason in August 2000, was trying to oust him. He also referenced his infamous hair, saying he cut it with a weed whacker.

Representative Steven C. LaTourette, an Ohio Republican, suggested that the motion on Traficant's expulsion should be delayed until September. He said this action would allow for Traficant's sentencing to take place and for his legal motions on the matter to be heard. The suggestion won a fair amount of support, mostly from Republicans, but was defeated in a 146-285 vote.

When it came to Traficant's arguments, his fellow congressmen had little sympathy. Those who made statements denounced him for bringing dishonor to the House, and suggested that to believe his defense was to put credence in an absurd conspiracy that involved the IRS, FBI, U.S. Attorney's Office, and a federal judge all colluding to bring him down.

A two-thirds majority was needed for expulsion, but the final tally was nearly unanimous. A total of 420 representatives voted in favor of Traficant's expulsion, with only one congressman opposed. The lone dissenter was Gary Condit of California, who was embroiled in a scandal of his own. Condit had admitted to an affair with Chandra Levy, a young intern from his district, but only after repeated questioning related to her disappearance in May 2001; Levy's body had been found in May 2002, and her death was ruled a homicide. Condit was a lame duck congressman by the time of Traficant's expulsion, having lost the Democratic primary in March.

Six days after he was thrown out of Congress, Traficant was sentenced to eight years in prison. At the time, it was the longest sentence ever imposed on a congressman, extending nine months longer than the minimum sentence recommended by prosecutors. Judge Lesley Brooks Wells said she added the extra time because Traficant had undermined the respect for his office and shown himself to be dishonest. She also ordered him to pay more than $250,000 in penalties, including a $150,000 fine, the forfeiture of $96,000 of unreported income from staffer kickbacks, and a $1,000 special assessment.

Wells referenced Traficant's congressional record at the sentencing, declaring, "You've done a lot of good in your years in Congress...The good you have done does not excuse you of the crime you were convicted of." Referring to Traficant's frequent promises that he would fight the charges like a "junkyard dog," Wells declared, "The truth, sir, is rarely in you. You were howling that you were going to fight like a junkyard dog in the eye of a hurricane, and you did fight that way, to protect a junkyard full of deceit and corruption and greed."

Since the judge refused to let Traficant remain free on bail while he appealed his case, he immediately began his time behind bars. "I committed no crime. I regret nothing I said," he declared, saying he intended to run for re-election in the 2002 race while incarcerated. It was only when he reported to prison that his famous hairdo was revealed to be a toupee. Traficant had to remove the hairpiece during a routine inmate search, and was informed that he wouldn't be able to wear it while in federal prison.

As promised, Traficant entered the 2002 race as an independent candidate. He managed to get 15 percent of the vote, but lost to Democratic candidate Tim Ryan, a state senator and former aide to Traficant. Despite his conviction, Traficant was able to start collecting an annual pension of about $40,000 after turning 62 in 2003. In June 2008, a federal judge ordered $250 to be deducted from his $1,037.79 a month state pension to go toward his fine. Traficant started his sentence at the Allenwood Federal Correctional Complex in Pennsylvania, then served the remainder at the Federal Medical Center in Rochester, Minnesota, after he was transferred due to an undisclosed medical or mental health issue.

An appeals court upheld Traficant's conviction in March 2004. The Supreme Court refused to hear his case in January 2005. Traficant took up painting and began creating scenes of horses and barns. At one point, he allegedly wrote a letter which renewed his claim that the federal government had sought retribution against him. He claimed that his conviction was punishment for his appeal on Demjanjuk's defense and because he "[knew] the facts" about the FBI sieges at Waco and Ruby Ridge, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, and the disappearance of union leader Jimmy Hoffa.

The letter surfaced on the website of David Duke, a white nationalist and former KKK grand wizard. Traficant had won the affection of white nationalists for his defense of Demjanjuk and Rudolph, and Duke appealed to his followers to send monetary donations to Traficant's wife, Tish, or his prison canteen fund. Tish downplayed Duke's appeal, saying her husband had no control over where his letter was circulating. Michael Collins Piper, a conspiracy theorist who first posted the letter and contribution information, also denied that Traficant represented the views of white nationalists. "There's stuff I've written about Traficant that's showing up in places I don't even know," he said. "It's like six degrees of separation with the Internet now." After Traficant's death, Duke would post a "Tribute to Jim Traficant and his Opposition to Jewish Supremacism."

In September 2009, after serving seven years of his sentence, Traficant was freed. He received a warm welcome in his hometown. An appreciation dinner was scheduled, and the theme of the local minor league baseball team's next game was "Traficant Release Night." Traficant remained on probation for the next three years. In January 2010, he got a part-time gig as a talk show host on the AM radio station WTAM.

James A. Traficant Jr.
Traficant and wife Tish at an appreciation dinner held after his release from prison

Traficant continued to maintain his innocence. At one point, referring to himself in the third person, he declared, "Seven people said they bribed him. They never had no crime against Traficant. They taped every phone call he ever made, probably. Since 1983." He was vocal in his disdain for both the Democrats and Republicans and also sounded off against targets such as the IRS, Justice Department, Socialists, and illegal immigrants. These diatribes caught the attention of the Tea Party, the conservative movement that formed after the election of President Barack Obama in 2008, and Traficant was invited to speak at several of their events around Youngstown.

In May 2010, Traficant announced that he would try to recapture his seat in Congress in the year's election. Since his imprisonment, his district had been split in half. Ryan continued to serve in one, while the other seat was filled by Democrat John Boccieri. Traficant opted to challenge Ryan as an independent candidate, with a platform that largely sought to restrict government power. He said he would attempt to repeal the 16th Amendment, which allows Congress to levy an income tax; abolish the IRS, Department of Energy, Department of Education, and Social Security; eliminate corporation and Medicare taxes; deport all illegal immigrants and station troops at the Mexican border; and free all prisoners convicted of non-violent crimes.

Traficant managed to get his name on the ballot for the general election. He again garnered a significant but insufficient portion of the vote, with 16 percent of the electorate favoring him. Ryan won re-election and continues to serve in the House of Representatives to this day. After the loss, Traficant seemed content to stay out of the spotlight.

On September 23, 2014, Traficant was driving a vintage tractor into a pole barn at his daughter's farm in Greenford, Ohio, when it struck an obstacle and overturned on top of him. There were suggestions that he had suffered a heart attack before the accident, but a pathologist later determined that the weight of the tractor had restricted Traficant's ability to breathe. He died on September 27 in a hospital in Poland, Ohio.

Traficant remains a polarizing figure. In February 2006, more than 300 people attended a town hall style debate in Youngstown to discuss whether he had been good or bad for the region. Traficant's supporters lauded his ability to challenge the Washington norms, while his opponents saw him as a corrupt and clownish figure who had impeded progress in his district. "His passing is obviously the passing of a political icon in Mahoning Valley," said Robert Hagan, Traficant's former political opponent. "Good, bad, or indifferent, he had an incredible amount of charisma."

Sources: The Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, "Sheriff's Slaying Tip-Off Probed" in the Pittsburgh Press on Oct. 24 1981, "Prisoner Kills Deputy Near Youngstown" in the Daily Kent Stater on Oct. 29 1981, "Sheriff Who Failed to Act in Foreclosures Sentenced" in the Toledo Blade on Feb. 17 1983, "Lashing Out" in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Jun. 2 1983, "In Fighting Form" in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Jul. 2 1983, "The Mafia and the Congressman" in the Washington Weekly on Apr. 19 1985, "Rep. James Traficant, D-Ohio, Facing Federal Charges of Tax Evasion," reported by UPI on Nov. 13 1986, "Congressman Defending Scientist Who is Suspected in War Crimes" in the New York Times on May 15 1990, "Traficant Relishes Bad Boy Role" in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Mar. 1 2000, "Rep. James Traficant Indicted on Racketeering" in The Item on May 4 2001, "U.S. Charges Traficant, Colorful Ohio Congressman, With Taking Bribes" in the New York Times on May 5 2001, "Armey: GOP Doesn't Want Traficant" in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal on May 8 2001, "Now Playing: Traficant Probe 2001, The Sequel" in the Youngstown Vindicator on May 23 2001, "Traficant Guilt OK to Some Voters" in the Star-News on Apr. 15 2002, "Panel Says Traficant Violated Ethics Rules" in the Daily News on Jul. 18 2002, "House Panel Votes to Expel Maverick Congressman" in the Spokesman-Review on Jul. 19 2002, "House Votes, With Lone Dissent From Condit, to Expel Traficant From Ranks" in the New York Times on Jul. 25 2002, "Traficant Begins Eight-Year Sentence; Expects Re-Election to House From Jail" in the Boca Raton News on Jul. 30 2002, "Bad Hair Day For Traficant" in the Associated Press on Oct. 29 2002, "'Welcome Home, Jimbo' Countdown" in the Youngstown Vindicator on Aug. 9 2009, "White Nationalists, Conspiracy Theorists Join Traficant Cause" on on Aug. 30 2009, "The Life and Trials of James A. Traficant Jr." in The Vindicator on Sep. 2 2009, "Traficant Lands a Part-Time Job on Radio" in the Youngstown Vindicator on Jan. 5 2010, "Tea Party Hero Jim Traficant: Could Ex-Con Return to Congress?" in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on May 2 2010, "America's Fastest Shrinking City: The Story of Youngstown, Ohio," published by The Hampton Institute on Jun. 18 2013, "Ex. Rep. Jim Traficant is Seriously Injured in Tractor Accident" in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on Sep. 24 2014, "James A. Traficant Jr., Colorful Ohio Congressman Expelled by House, Dies at 73" in the Washington Post on Sep. 27 2014, "James Traficant Jr., Expelled From Congress in 2002, Dies at 73" in the Los Angeles Times on Sep. 27 2014, "James Traficant Jr., Cast Out by Congress in Bribery Case, Dies at 73" in the New York Times on Sep. 27 2014, "Jim Traficant Dies at 73" in Politico on Sep. 27 2014, "Ex-Congressman Jim Traficant Dies of Injuries Suffered From a Tractor Accident at Daughter's Farm" in the Cleveland Plains Dealer on Sep. 27 2014, "Former Rep. Traficant Didn't Have Heart Attack, Seizure Before Tractor Death, Pathologist Says" in the Cleveland Plains Dealer on Sep. 30 2014, Remembering the Cruelest Month: The Network, Labor, and Haunting of the Memories of Columbine by Stephanie Jean Stillman, Political Scandals: The Consequences of Temporary Gratification by La Trice M. Washington

Saturday, March 5, 2016

James F. Hastings: skimming off the top


Political gridlock was one of the reasons James Fred Hastings cited for his decision to resign from the House of Representatives at the beginning of 1976. As a moderate Republican from a small city in western New York, he felt that he had not been able to make much of a mark on national politics. Moreover, he didn't believe that Congress had made much meaningful progress toward resolving the most pressing issues of the day.

"I came up to age 49 without having a great deal to show for it," Hastings said. "Taking a look at the next 12 to 14 years of productive life, I decided I couldn't spend it here under the circumstances and frustrations I see in this legislative body."

Another reason for his resignation, Hastings admitted, had to do with his finances. Between maintaining his home in New York and serving in Washington, he said he had run up $19,000 in debt. He would be moving on to a job as president of Associated Industries, an Albany-based lobbying organization representing more than 2,000 businesses in the state. The post came with a higher salary than he was earning as a congressman.

Before the year was over, a federal court would charge Hastings with an entirely different type of financial trouble. He had hardly had difficulty with his accounts while in Congress, prosecutors accused. Rather, he had skimmed money from his employees for personal luxuries.

Hastings was born on April 10, 1926, in Olean, New York. He joined the Navy during World War II, becoming part of flight squadrons between 1943 and 1946. After the war, he worked as a union carpenter from 1947 to 1950, then as a sales representative for Proctor and Gamble for two years. He joined the radio station WHDL as sales manager in 1952, and served as station manager from 1959 to 1966. Hastings also dabbled in real estate as a partner in the firm Hastings & Jewell and held the job of national advertising manager at the Olean Times Herald from 1964 to 1966.

During most of his career in radio, Hastings also held local and state political posts. He was a member of the Allegany Town Board from 1953 to 1962, and served as a village justice during the same period. He was then elected to the New York state assembly, serving from 1963 to 1965, before transferring to the state senate and serving through 1968.

Hastings' move to national politics was prompted by the death of Senator Robert F. Kennedy. At the time of his death, Kennedy was running for the Democratic nomination for President. Following his victory in the California primary on June 5, 1968, Kennedy was shot three times by an assassin; he died the next day. Governor Nelson Rockefeller appointed Representative Charles Goodell, a Republican, to fill Kennedy's vacant Senate seat. Hastings was chosen as the Republican nominee for the open House of Representatives seat left by Goodell's appointment, and defeated Democratic candidate Wilbur White in the year's general election.

The district was happy enough with Hastings' service that it sent him back to Washington in the next three elections. However, as he mentioned in his remarks about his decision to resign, he never truly distinguished himself. The Milwaukee Journal commented that he had established himself as "a hard worker and an expert on such important - if unglamorous - issues as health, transportation, and the environment." One of his more noticeable actions involved the co-sponsorship of a bill to repeal the earnings limitation on the Social Security Act.

Following his resignation, the remainder of Hastings' term was put to a special election. Stanley Ludine, the mayor of the nearby city of Jamestown, earned 54,743 votes to GOP candidate John T. Calkins' total of 34,491. Ludine was the first Democrat from the Olean area to be sent to Congress in 106 years. He would go on to serve 10 years in the House before becoming lieutenant governor to Mario Cuomo.

Hastings quickly began to weigh in on state proposals. One month after his resignation, he announced Associated Industries' opposition to an attempt to increase New York unemployment benefits. The proposal was unrealistic, Hastings charged, and would cause businesses to leave the state. The Empire State Chamber of Commerce, Council of Merchants, and New York Chamber of Commerce and Industry joined him in opposition.

Only a few months later, the news broke that Hastings was under investigation. In June, a Justice Department source confirmed that it was looking into payroll records related to four people who had worked for Hastings while he was in Congress. Since the investigation was taking place at the same time that Wayne Hays was under scrutiny for accusations that his secretary was essentially paid to be his mistress, the source assured the press that Hastings' case did "not involve girls."

On September 21, Hastings was indicted on 26 counts of of mail fraud and nine counts of making false statements to the House Finance office. Hastings was accused of manipulating the salaries of three employees while in Congress, giving them salary increases but ordering them to transfer this extra cash to his own account. The case went to trial in December.

The prosecution's case rested chiefly on the testimony of Claire Bradley, who had worked as Hastings' executive secretary during his time in the House. Bradley said that Hastings had increased her salary by $360 a month, starting in May 1969. At the same time, however, he wanted Bradley to give back this amount so he could pay into a New York state retirement fund. Bradley testified that the congressman told her this kind of arrangement was common between members of Congress and their employees. She complied for more than a year, considering it to be a loan, but eventually realized that Hastings was running a kickback scheme. She stopped deferring part of her salary to Hastings after August 1971, although she agreed to make a $1,736 tuition payment for his sons' college education in August 1972.

After Hastings announced he was resigning, Bradley sought to get her money back. She outlined the payments she had made to her boss over the years and calculated that he owed her about $12,000. When Hastings did not respond, she consulted with an attorney. Bradley said that Hastings apologized to her on January 19, his second to last day in office, but told her that he would not be giving back any of the money he had taken from her. He also allegedly threatened to ruin her employment prospects if she sought legal action against him, saying, "I can fix all this tomorrow by not recommending you for any other job."

Investigators had also determined that Hastings had received personal benefits from Leonard Jones, an auto dealer and part-time district representative for Hastings, as well as a chauffeur named David Walden. Jones had returned more than $6,000 in payments Hastings made on cars purchased at his dealership. Walden said he used the approximately $9,000 in extra payments received from Hastings to pay the congressman's bills at a marina on Rushford Lake in New York. Joseph Hirsch, manager of RK Marina, said Hastings had purchased three boats and two snowmobiles from him.

During the trial, Hastings' defense argued that the payments to Hastings had been loans rather than kickbacks. They also called five character witnesses, including Republican Senator Lowell Weicker of Connecticut.

The jury was not convinced. On December 17, they found Hastings guilty of 20 counts of mail fraud and eight counts of making false statements. He declined to appeal the verdict and resigned from Associated Industries.

At his sentencing on January 31, 1977, Hastings asked that the court take his productive life into consideration. Assistant U.S. Attorney John Kotelly asked the court to disregard this consideration, saying Hastings should not get special treatment simply because of his position. "We feel a double standard should not exist where a person who commits a street crime gets a heavy sentence while a person who commits a white collar crime gets a light sentence," said Kotelly.

U.S. District Court Judge June L. Green said she had received several letters from constituents who praised Hastings' work. However, he was also irked by those who believed kickback schemes were a common practice among congressmen, and that Hastings should not be punished harshly. She said such justifications were an affront to all honest officials, and that Hastings' sentence should "put on notice" anyone who was engaged in similar behavior. "You were elected to a position with grave national responsibilities," said Green. "The conduct for which you have been found guilty constituted a violation of that public trust."

Hastings was ordered to serve between 20 months and five years in prison. He was released after 14 months, and retired to Belleair Beach, Florida. After living there for 21 years, Hastings returned to New York to be closer to his family. He died on October 24, 2014, in Allegany.

Sources: The Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, "Hastings Nominated" in the Evening News on Sep. 23 1968, "Accent on the News" in the Milwaukee Journal on Jan. 7 1976, "Worker Benefits Plan Criticized" in the Evening News on Feb. 24 1976, "Defeat" in the Lakeland Ledger on Mar. 3 1976, "Former Congressman's Records To Be Released" in the Spokesman-Review on Jun. 10 1976, "Jurors Indict Former Legislator" in the Bangor Daily News on Sept. 22 1976, "Prosecution of Hastings is Completed" in the Observer-Reporter on Dec. 16 1976, "Secretary to Hastings Testifies To A Kickback" in the New York Times on Dec. 16 1976, "Deliberations Begin at Kickbacks Trial" in the Bangor Daily News on Dec. 17 1976, "Former N.Y. Congressman is Convicted by Jury" in the Bryan Times on Dec. 18 1976, "Ex-Solon May Face Jail Time" in the Spokane Daily Chronicle on Dec. 18 1976, "Hastings Convicted, Quits Post" in the Observer-Reporter on Dec. 20 1976, "Ex-Congressman Sentenced for Taking Kickbacks" in the Observer-Reporter on Feb. 1 1977, "James F. Hastings Obituary" in the Olean Times Herald on Oct. 27 2014, "Former Rep. James F. Hastings Remembered as Good Public Servant" in the Olean Times Herald on Oct. 28 2014