Campaign Committee Formed To Re-Elect Imprisoned Congressman

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:29pm EDT

( - Former Rep. James Traficant (D-Ohio) may be sitting in a federal prison cell in White Deer, Pa., serving an eight-year sentence on political corruption charges, but it isn't stopping his district supporters from forming a committee to get him re-elected in the upcoming November election.

Before his conviction, Traficant filed to run as an Independent in Ohio's Seventeenth Congressional District. He faces Democratic state Sen. Tim Ryan, Republican state Rep. Ann Womer Benjamin and Independent Warren Davis, a former labor leader.

Jim Bunosky of Austintown, Ohio, a substitute schoolteacher, has signed on as campaign manager.

"I love Jim Traficant. I would do anything short of throwing myself in front of a train for him. But I won't go that far," said Bunosky in an interview with .

"I believe wholeheartedly in Jim Traficant, the job that he has done in the Congress, and I believe he is totally innocent of all the charges."

Bunosky said he has not spoken directly with Traficant about the upcoming campaign, but nevertheless, he thinks Traficant has a "great chance" to be re-elected as an Independent because of his record in the Mahoning Valley. "He did so many things for so many people and people don't forget," Bunosky said.

Ohio's 17th Congressional District includes all of the Mahoning Valley. Bunosky, an Ohio state committeeman for the "America First Party" said that party is enthusiastically supporting Traficant in his independent bid.

The America First Party had invited Traficant to address its convention last month, but the invitation came before his conviction.

A Cleveland jury convicted Traficant in April on 10 counts of bribery, tax evasion and racketeering. He was found guilty of requiring staff members to do personal chores for him and kick back part of their paychecks to him. He was also convicted of accepting cash bribes and various favors from businessmen who sought his help while in Congress.

Traficant was first elected to Congress in 1984. Before that, he was the Mahoning County Sheriff.

During his stint as a sheriff, Traficant was indicted on bribery charges. He later admitted taking bribes from mobsters to overlook local gambling, loan sharking, drug trafficking and prostitution, but argued that he was conducting his own "sting" operation. Traficant was tried in 1983, defended himself, and persuaded the jury to find him not guilty.

He defended himself this year, too, but the effort failed.

The Youngstown-area district Traficant has represented since 1984 was eliminated in January in redistricting by Ohio's Republican-controlled Legislature.

See Earlier Stories:
With Traficant in Jail, His Constituents Get Help Elsewhere (1 Aug. 2002)
Traficant Sentenced To Eight Years In Prison (30 July 2002)\b a href=""E-mail a news tip to Jim Burns.

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