Obituaries about former Ohio Congressman James Traficant, who died on September 27 from injuries sustained in an accident on his farm near Youngstown, detail his life. However, nearly all failed to mention that in the past five years Traficant was a prominent and active figure on the extreme right, appealing both to anti-government extremists of the “Patriot” movement as well as to white supremacists and anti-Semites.
The obituaries did, however, allude to Traficant’s past criminal activities that culminated in a 2002 conviction on charges of racketeering, bribery, tax evasion and obstruction of justice. Traficant received an 8-year prison sentence and became one of the few representatives ever expelled from Congress.
According to one obituary, after his release from prison, Traficant “lived a quiet life on his farm.” In reality, however, he was far from quiet. He was a regular columnist for the American Free Press (AFP), a conspiracy-oriented anti-Semitic newspaper, attended extremist events, and expressed anti-Semitic views. Traficant’s alliance with the extreme right began years earlier.
Traficant was a Democrat but by the 1990s had become popular among the extreme right. His strong support of Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk drew the approval of white supremacists and anti-Semites. Later, during his trial, Traficant sought to remove Jewish jurors, saying that “I have concern about certain political and religious organizations who have targeted me.”
Anti-government extremists liked his growing anti-government rhetoric, particularly in the late 1990s as his own criminal troubles intensified. Traficant repeatedly invoked the standoffs at Ruby Ridge and Waco, called Attorney General Janet Reno a “traitor,” attacked the Federal Reserve, and stated that “we have a federal government that Americans fear.”
During his trial and imprisonment, white supremacists such as David Duke spoke out on his behalf and urged people to send him money. In particular, Traficant developed a close relationship with AFP, published by Willis Carto, one of the leading American anti-Semites. AFP vocally supported Traficant, while one of its writers even wrote a book about the former Congressman.
After Traficant’s 2009 release, the relationship became closer. AFP announced an “appreciation dinner” for him, while Traficant even became a columnist for the anti-Semitic publication—which he continued until his death. In his columns, as well as elsewhere, Traficant railed against Jewish organizations like the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee and accused Israel of controlling the American media, the American economy, and both houses of Congress. Traficant appeared as a speaker at AFP events, some of which were organized around him, such as a 2010 “Town Hall” with Traficant in Washington, D.C.
During these years, Traficant also spoke at other extremist events. He spoke several times at “Freedom Palooza,” an annual event in eastern Pennsylvania run by Paul Topete, a long time anti-government extremist and anti-Semite, which attracted anti-government extremists and white supremacists. At one such event, according to a white supremacist who attended, Traficant allegedly discussed the “Jewish dominance of the press, money supply, New York and Hollywood.” Traficant also spoke at events such as Conspiracy Con and the Freedom Law School, the latter a group associated with the anti-government extremist tax protest movement.
Shortly before his death, Traficant and AFP had begun a new joint venture, “Project Freedom USA,” intended to be an effort by “grassroots patriots…to end the financial tyranny that is strangling our nation.” Among other things, the project intended to abolish the Federal Reserve and “our communist, progressive income tax.”