Whopper of the Week: James Traficant

Just how innocent is he?

“I have committed no crimes. … There is no evidence.”

—James Traficant, testifying before the House ethics committee on July 15. The committee voted unanimously to expel Traficant from the House on July 18. The previous April, Traficant was convicted on criminal charges of taking bribes and accepting payroll kickbacks from members of his congressional staff.

“If we do not have the money in 3 days, we are going to have to file a lawsuit to protect our interest.”

—Letter from Anthony Bucci to his lawyer, John Spain, in October 1988, initiating a lawsuit against Traficant for nonpayment of $10,233 in work that Bucci’s contracting business had done the year before on Traficant’s family horse farm. Bucci never pursued the matter further. Click here, then scroll to the bottom and click “Selected Hearing Exhibits” to peruse the relevant documents (under “Count One,” Items 6, 7, 8, and 9).


“Our Valley has been devastated with unemployment during the past ten years and [the Buccis’] disbarment will only add to the unemployment statistics in our area.”

Letter from Traficant to Transportation Secretary Federico Pena on May 20, 1993, urging that the Buccis’ construction firm not be denied federal contracts. Click here, then scroll to the bottom and click “Selected Hearing Exhibits,” then select (under “Count One”) Item 17. Similar interventions by Traficant on Bucci’s behalf, with Bucci’s prison warden and with the Federal Highway Administration, can be observed in Items 14 and 16.

Q: “And what did Congressman Traficant respond when you told him that bill was a lot of money, and if you forgave the bill, you would expect to have favors?”


A: “The response was he understood, he agreed, and his comment to me was that I can do a lot more for you in return.”



Q: “Mr Bucci, are you a person that parts with money easily, lightly?”

A: “Not at all.”

Q: “Why did you agree then to go ahead and forgive this $12,900 debt?” [Chatterbox interjects: This dollar figure includes interest owed.]

A: “After we discussed it, my brother and myself, we realized we were basically under the congressman for $13,000, we were going to own him.”

—Anthony Bucci’s testimony at Traficant’s trial.

Discussion. The Bucci bribe is one of several documented in court testimony (Chatterbox invites readers to click here and browse in leisurely fashion). It is offered here only for illustrative purposes.


Got a whopper? Send it to To be considered, an entry must be an unambiguously false statement paired with an unambiguous refutation, and both must be derived from some appropriately reliable public source. Preference will be given to newspapers and other documents that Chatterbox can link to online.

Whopper Archive:
July 12, 2002: Maryland Lt. Gov. candidate Michael S. Steele
July 5, 2002: Hesham Mohamed Hadayet
June 28, 2002: WorldCom
June 21, 2002: Terry Lynn Barton
June 14, 2002: Tom Ridge
June 7, 2002: Former FBI Deputy Director Weldon Kennedy
May 31, 2002: Ari Fleischer
May 23, 2002: Condoleezza Rice
May 17, 2002: Robert Mueller
May 9, 2002: Karl Rove
May 3, 2002: Gen. Richard Myers
April 25, 2002: Donald Rumsfeld
April 18, 2002: George W. Bush  
April 11, 2002: The Rev. Robert J. Banks, archdiocese of Boston
April 5, 2002: George W. Bush  
March 29, 2002: Major League Baseball
March 21, 2002: Billy Graham
March 14, 2002: INS commissioner James W. Ziglar
March 8, 2002: Robert Zoellick and the U.S. steel industry
Feb. 28, 2002: Al Sharpton
Feb. 22, 2002: Olympic skating judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne
Feb. 14, 2002: Kenneth Lay
Feb. 8, 2002: Enron spokeswoman Peggy Mahoney
Jan. 31, 2002: Monsanto
Jan. 24, 2002: Linda Chavez
Jan. 17, 2002: George W. Bush
Jan. 10, 2002: Simon & Schuster
Jan. 4, 2002: The Associated Press

(Click  here  to access the Whopper Archive for 2001.)