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Items sent to reps are suspect

By Peter H. Milliken

Wednesday, October 17, 2001

Send messages by fax or e-mail now that regular congressional mail is stopped, a Traficant aide suggests.
YOUNGSTOWN -- A calm but cautious approach is in order in dealing with the recent anthrax scares, an aide to U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. said late Tuesday afternoon after the Ohio State Highway Patrol reported that a suspicious package was addressed to the congressman.
"He certainly would not want this particular incident to give cause to any panic because it's simply too early to tell whether there is, in fact, anything to be concerned about," said Charles Straub, Traficant's press secretary.
The packages: The Ohio State Highway Patrol said it is investigating suspicious packages addressed to U.S. representatives from Ohio and received Tuesday in the mailrooms of the Riffe Center, Rhodes Tower and Statehouse in downtown Columbus.
The patrol said the packages were postmarked in Sri Lanka, had similar handwriting and were described as homemade. Besides Traficant, of Poland, D-17th, packages were addressed to U.S. Reps. David L. Hobson of Springfield, R-7th; Robert Ney of St. Clairsville, R-18th; Michael G. Oxley of Findlay, R-4th; and Thomas C. Sawyer of Akron, D-14th.
None of these representatives has offices in any of the state office buildings where the packages were received, said the patrol, which investigates criminal activity on state-owned or leased properties.
Assisting the patrol with the investigation is the Columbus Fire Department's Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit and the FBI Terrorist Unit, Columbus Bureau.
In Washington: Concern about congressional mail was heightened after an anthrax-contaminated letter was found Monday in the office of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D. In response, public tours of the U.S. Capitol were canceled and mail service to House and Senate offices in Washington was suspended indefinitely.
Straub said a representative of the patrol called him immediately after the package for Traficant was found at the Riffe Center and described it as a letter, rather than a package. The state patrol news release refers to the items sent to the congressmen as packages.
Straub said the patrol representative told him the letter was not opened and that the patrol took special note of the letter because of its place of origin, the fact that it was misaddressed and the fact that the address was partly typeset and partly handwritten.
Straub said he understood it was addressed to "James A. Traficant Jr., member of the House, Ohio 17," and that it may have gone to Columbus because the address didn't make it clear whether Traficant is a state or U.S. representative.
Results of tests on the letter or package could become available sometime today, Straub added.
How to contact: Mail delivery to the Washington offices of members of the U.S. House and Senate has been suspended at least for the remainder of this week, Straub said, adding that mail sent to Traficant's district offices in Youngstown, Niles and East Liverpool will be left unopened until the U.S. House leadership tells the congressman how to proceed.
"For the safety of the employees, these precautionary steps must be taken," Straub said.
Straub urged Traficant's constituents to send e-mails or faxes to his offices instead of regular mail. The congressman's fax number is (202) 225-3719; his e-mail address is
Mail received by Traficant's Washington office early Monday morning was returned unopened to the House Postal Operations central mailroom, and none has been received since then, Straub said.
In Washington, the congressman's office normally receives four mail deliveries daily, each containing 50 to 100 pieces of mail, Straub added.