Sunday, February 26, 2006

Ambassador Harris

Representative Katherine Harris (FL-13) has been sucked into the vortex of the Cunningham scandal. Harris' senatorial bid, a source of embarrassment for Republicans, may be completely derailed by new and more detailed revelations of her relationship with Mitchell Wade and his MZM Inc.

Harris' 2004 congressional campaign received $50,000 from Wade and other MZM employees. The vast majority of MZM employee contributions were "straw" contributions. MZM's employees were given the money to contribute to Harris by Mitchell Wade in order to circumvent campaign finance laws.

According to a local paper from Harris' Florida district, The Ledger, Harris understands that their might be a problem when $50,000 rains down on your campaign from the employees of a single company, on the same day.

Harris' understanding of the potential perception problem wasn't mitigated by the fact that this same sort of "perception" problem dogged her 1994 state senate campaign.
It's not the first time the Longboat Key Republican has had to defend herself for accepting illegal contributions from a company. In 1994, while running for the state senate, Harris collected $30,000 from a Sarasota company called Riscorp which, like MZM, was investigated for violating campaign laws.
The more significant problem dogging Harris is the fact that not long after MZM showered her with cash, she had a cozy dinner with Mitchell Wade to discuss what she could do for Wade in return for the $50,000. information disclosed Friday by the U.S. Justice Department shows Harris failed to mention one key detail back then -- the company's president had asked her to put in a request for federal funding for his company.

That money would have helped build a Navy counterintelligence facility in Sarasota.

Mitchell Wade, now at the center of a federal bribery investigation, took Harris to dinner at a posh Washington restaurant to make his pitch, according to records from the U.S. District Court in Washington D.C.
Harris made the request, but apparently didn't have the pull to get her earmark approved.

Harris' connection to Wade has been as side note in the Cunningham story, but Harris has been running for cover knowing that at some point in time the details of her flirtation with Mitchell Wade would surface. Two years after their receipt of the "straw" MZM conributions, Harris gave $50,000 to charity.

George Bush wouldn't be president if it wasn't for Katherine Harris. I'm sure that, barring a jail sentence, she is going to be offered an ambassadorship when she looses her senatorial bid. In fact, I suspect that the Bush Administration will work hard to get Harris out of town as soon as possible. Maybe some quail hunting with the VP?