17TH DISTRICT Ex-staffers still working for the Valley

The 17th Congressional District staff has sent a list of Valley appropriation projects to key U.S. House members.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Their boss is gone, kicked out of Congress and placed in a federal prison to serve an eight-year sentence.
But James A. Traficant Jr.'s former staffers, who are running the 17th Congressional District offices, are doing what they can to obtain funding through congressional appropriation bills for Mahoning Valley projects.
As U.S. Rep. Bob Ney -- chairman of the House Administration Committee, which is overseeing the 17th Congressional District office along with the clerk of the House -- put it, it is going to be exceptionally hard for the staff to do anything more than urge House members not to forget the Valley in its effort to obtain federal money for local projects.
"The district doesn't have a sitting member to work for these projects," said Ney, a St. Clairsville Republican, during a Monday visit to Warren to stump for Ann Womer Benjamin, the Republican candidate for the 17th District. "We, as an Ohio delegation, owe it to Ohio and the people in this district to look at these projects and see how we can help them."
Seeking help
The 17th District staff has sent a list of Valley appropriation projects to key congressional members, including Ney.
"With this unique situation, we have to see what the Valley needs and determine how we can help," Ney said.
Ney did not have the Valley appropriation list available Monday. John Culbertson, the 17th District office administrator, declined to release it.
The House has to finalize nine appropriation bills during the final few months of the year, which will include a lame-duck session after the Nov. 5 general election, Ney said. The House resumes its session next week.
Traficant was kicked out of Congress last month, becoming only the fifth U.S. House member ever to be expelled. Although Traficant of Poland is no longer in Congress, his staff remains through the end of the year, focusing primarily on constituent services.
Uphill battle
Even before being expelled, the challenge facing Traficant to obtain appropriations for the Mahoning Valley was large. Money for special projects are included in the House appropriation bills.
Nearly all appropriations work is done through committees and in discussions with committee leaders.
Traficant had not served on a committee since he crossed party lines in January 2001 and voted for a Republican for speaker of the House. The Democrats, Traficant's political party at the time, refused to give him any committee assignments, and Republicans could not seat him, based on their internal rules.
The lack of a committee assignment was evident in 2001, Traficant's last full year in Congress. During that year, Traficant was able to get only about $2 million in funding from House appropriation bills, with about half of it for a vocational education program for 20 school districts, including 15 school systems not in the 17th District. In 2000, Traficant got about $5 million from appropriation bills.
Besides Ney, U.S. Reps. Ted Strickland, a Lucasville Democrat, and Sherrod Brown, a Lorain Democrat, said they would do what they could to provide assistance to the Mahoning Valley in the absence of a congressman, but House rules restrict the level of their involvement.

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