Friday, July 25, 2003

Prison no bar to Traficant bid for president

By Malia Rulon
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Jailbird James Traficant appears to be eyeing the West Wing. A group called "Draft Traficant for President 2004" communicated with the imprisoned former Ohio congressman by mail and received permission to start a campaign. They filed a signed "Statement of Candidacy" form with the Federal Election Commission this week.

"Myself and several of my friends were thoroughly dissatisfied with the current choices in the Democratic field," said Marcus Belk of Jersey City, N.J.

The group says it plans to get Traficant's name on ballots for primary elections and raise $100,000 to qualify for federal matching funds.

Traficant, a Democrat who represented northeast Ohio in the House for nine terms, was expelled in July 2002 after being convicted in a federal court of racketeering, bribery and tax evasion. The man remembered for his one-minute tirades on the House floor is serving an eight-year prison sentence at the minimum-security Allenwood federal prison in White Deer, Pa.

Traficant ran an unsuccessful jailhouse campaign last year for his redistricted congressional seat. As an independent, he garnered 15 percent of the vote and lost his first race since 1982.

Belk stressed that Traficant isn't yet a declared presidential candidate. "The congressman has allowed us to take this first step for him to begin garnering support before he approves of a presidential exploratory committee," he said.

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