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J.J. Cafaro: Down, but not out

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

Published January 9, 2011

Untitled document

In February, Mahoning Valley shopping center developer John J. Cafaro pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Cleveland to violating federal elections law during the 2004 congressional campaign of his daughter, Capri. In June, J.J. went before Judge Kathleen O’Malley and walked out of court a free man. The three years’ probation, the $250,000 fine and the 150 hours of community service were a breeze, considering he could have been sent to the penitentiary for six months.

Since then, Cafaro has retired as an executive with the Cafaro Co., has been spotted performing his community service, and last week was on hand to see his daughter, Capri, being sworn in — again — as minority leader of the Ohio Senate.

Although J.J. is not legally prohibited from attending political events or being involved in politics, why would he want to draw attention to himself and to the minority leader by making the trek to Columbus? One explanation is that he’s a proud daddy who wanted to be on hand to see Capri retain her leadership of the Democrats in the Senate. Another explanation: He and his wife and their other daughter wanted to make sure that the room wasn’t empty. After all, Democrats suffered such a political defeat in the November general election that they don’t control any statewide offices, and are in the minority in the General Assembly.

In the Senate, Democrats hold only 10 of the 33 seats, which means they could caucus in a telephone booth (remember those?), or as one political observer put it, “They’ve become a one pizza caucus.”

J.J. Cafaro, who several years ago pleaded guilty to bribing then Congressman James A. Traficant Jr., wouldn’t be welcomed in many political circles, but there’s something to be said for a father providing moral support to his daughter.

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