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Thread: Election 2000 Criminal Katherine Harris Got Illegal Donations

  1. #1
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    Election 2000 Criminal Katherine Harris Got Illegal Donations

    Harris Got Illegal Donations

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    By WILLIAM MARCH and KEITH EPSTEIN
    The Tampa Tribune
    2/25/2005

    TAMPA - A defense contractor who pleaded guilty Friday to bribing a California congressman told federal authorities he also funneled illegal campaign contributions to U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris of Longboat Key, who's running for the U.S. Senate.

    The contractor, Mitchell Wade, former chief executive of MZM Inc. in California, pleaded guilty to paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to Republican Randy "Duke" Cunningham of California and receiving more than $150 million in Defense Department contracts in return.

    He also pleaded guilty to making about $80,000 in illegal campaign contributions to two other Congress members - identifiable from court papers and election records as Harris and Rep. Virgil Goode of Virginia, both Republicans - in hopes of receiving federal appropriations.

    The Harris contributions were made to her 2004 campaign for re-election to the House. At the time, MZM, its officers and its political action committee were Harris' largest single source of campaign funds.

    Wade also told prosecutors he met with Harris in early 2005 for dinner at an expensive Washington restaurant, where they discussed two possibilities: Wade holding a fundraiser for Harris, who was then considering a run for Senate, and U.S. Navy funding for an MZM center in Harris' district.

    The program was never funded, according to the U.S. attorney prosecuting Wade.

    It is illegal for Congress members to discuss or accept money in return for performing specific governmental acts.

    A Harris spokeswoman confirmed Friday that Harris did have dinner with Wade and discussed both subjects, but denied there was any connection between them.

    Harris has acknowledged accepting the MZM contributions but said she did not know they were illegal and never performed any service for MZM in return. She has since donated the contributions to charity.

    Wade did not tell Harris and Goode the contributions were illegal, according to the prosecutor.

    "Today's announcement is an unfortunate reality," Harris said in a written statement. "I am disappointed by the disrespect shown by a few individuals to the rule of law."

    Harris' statement said she and Wade had "discussed opening a defense plant in Sarasota that would create numerous high-skilled, high-wage jobs in my district."

    She did not respond to a request for an interview.

    Investigation Continues
    Under Wade's plea agreement, he faces up to 11 years and three months of incarceration. A sentencing date has not been set.

    The prosecutor, U.S. Attorney Kenneth Wainstein of the Washington district, said the investigation continues and that Wade is cooperating.

    According to a news release by Wainstein, Wade hoped to curry favor with Harris and Goode because he thought they could request appropriations that would benefit MZM.

    Wade, however, "needed a way around the campaign contribution laws," which limit contributions to $2,000 per person, Wainstein said.

    "His solution was to have his employees and their spouses make contributions ... under their own names, then reimburse them - a technique known as 'straw contributions' that is a felony under federal election law."

    In a news conference announcing Wade's plea, Wainstein added, "Wade personally handed a number of those checks to each representative, followed by the inevitable request that that representative seek appropriations funding that would benefit MZM."

    When news reports first surfaced last year suggesting that Wade had coerced employees to make contributions, Harris offered to return the money to any MZM employee who desired it. She got no response, she said.

    After Cunningham pleaded guilty in December, Harris promised to give the money away. Two weeks ago, she donated more than $50,000 to Habitat for Humanity - the MZM contributions plus others from Indian tribes linked to indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

    Treasurer Recently Replaced
    The Wade plea comes 10 days after Harris' campaign hired a new treasurer to replace Nancy Watkins of Tampa's Robert Watkins and Co., one of the state's leading experts on campaign finance accounting.

    Neither side would talk about Watkins' departure, but asked whether it had anything to do with the MZM contributions, Watkins said, "Absolutely not."

    "Never, ever would a contribution get into one of my client's bank accounts if I knew there was something improper about it," Watkins said.

    Harris' Senate campaign spokeswoman Morgan Dobbs said the campaign "just decided to switch accounting firms," but added later, "The campaign did not fire Nancy Watkins."

    Harris said in her statement: "This case demonstrates the perils of a process in which candidates are sometimes asked to determine the intent of a contributor. I am fully committed to addressing any weaknesses in the law with regard to the exercise of our government and the spirit of democracy."

    Harris ran into trouble with illegal contributions before.

    During her 1994 campaign for state Senate, she received $20,293 from Riscorp, a Sarasota insurance company at the heart of one of the state's biggest political fundraising scandals.

    In 1998, five of the Sarasota insurance company's top executives, including founder William Griffin, were sentenced for scheming to conceal $380,000 in illegal contributions between 1990 and 1996.

    Harris got more than any other politician except Tom Gallagher, then state insurance commissioner and now chief financial officer and a candidate for governor. Gallagher received $109,000.

    One Riscorp memo in the court file contended that Harris' former campaign manager asked that the contributions be made under separate addresses so that the checks could not be easily be traced back to the company.

    Harris, like Gallagher, denied knowing the contributions were illegal. She eventually donated the proceeds to charity.

    Harris also sought to repair the damage by proposing legislation limiting bundles of contributions by corporations and their subsidiaries.

    The legislation didn't pass.

    Larry Noble of the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan government watchdog group, said it's legal for a Congress member such as Harris to discuss legislation with a donor, but not legal to link donations to specific government actions.

    There is a "fine line between bribery and a contribution," he said. "The line is where there's a quid pro quo."

    "There's nothing illegal about him handing over contributions and saying, 'By the way, I have an issue I'd like you think about.' ... But if he's saying we expect you to get us these contracts, you might have a bribe."

    Harris is the only widely known Republican seeking the nomination to run against U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat seeking re-election in November.

    "I would hope that ethics matters to the voters," said Nelson spokesman Dan McLaughlin. "In this case, the congressman who got the most amount of bribes from MZM is on his way to prison. The congressman who got second-most illegal money wants to be a U.S. senator."
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


  2. #2
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    Katherine Harris Caught Up in Bribery Scandal
    Campaign Donations From Defense Contractor Under Scrutiny

    http://articles.news.aol.com/news/ar...03035709990014

    By MITCH STACY, AP

    TAMPA, Fla. (March 3) - U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris said Thursday she did not knowingly do anything wrong in her associations with a defense contractor who prosecutors say illegally funneled thousands of dollars to her campaign in 2004.

    Questions about the donations have arisen as Harris, the former Florida secretary of state who oversaw the 2000 presidential election recount, tries to unseat U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.

    The donations were described in a plea agreement last Friday, when Mitchell Wade, the former president of MZM Inc., pleaded guilty to bribing U.S. Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham in exchange for assistance in getting $150 million in Defense Department contracts for his company.

    He also admitted making illegal campaign contributions in the names of MZM employees and their spouses to Harris and Rep. Virgil Goode, R-Va. Prosecutors said Harris got $32,000 from employees who were reimbursed by Wade. Harris said she recently donated the money to charity, and didn't know the donations would be reimbursed.

    In the plea agreement, Wade acknowledged dining with Harris at a Washington restaurant in 2005 to discuss a possible fundraiser for her and obtaining funding for a Navy counterintelligence program involving his company. She requested the funding, but Wade didn't get it.

    "I requested a $10 million appropriation for the U.S Naval Criminal Investigative Services project because I thought it would bring new jobs to Sarasota," said Harris, R-Fla. "I never requested funding for this project in exchange for any contributions, but rather to bring more high-skill, high-wage jobs to the region."

    Wade has been cooperating with federal prosecutors in Washington and San Diego since last summer and is required to continue to do so as part of his plea agreement with the government. He faces up to 20 years in prison. Prosecutors said they are continuing to investigate and won't say if Harris is a subject.

    Harris said her office has not been contacted about the investigation.

    "I think these revelations should matter to voters because I think ethics should count for something in a public servant," said Dan McLaughlin, spokesman for Nelson.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


  3. #3
    beltman713 Guest
    Just like she didn't do anything wrong during the 2000 presidential election.

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    Harris `Circling the Wagons'
    Candidate cancels campaign stops as questions about contractor linger.

    http://www.theledger.com/apps/pbcs.d...603060330/1004

    By JEREMY WALLACE
    NYT Regional Newspapers
    3/6/2006

    PORT CHARLOTTE -- Already trying to avoid the media, Longboat Key Republican Katherine Harris is now canceling campaign stops in Southwest Florida as questions swirl about her ties to a Washington, D.C., defense contractor at the center of an ongoing national bribery scandal.

    Harris, who is running for the U.S. Senate, abruptly canceled a stop in Charlotte County on Saturday, and four other events planned for Lee and Collier counties were removed from her campaign Web site.

    It's another sign that Harris' struggling campaign is now in full crisis mode. Political consultants say that shying away from the public right now is also a bad strategy.

    "She can't hide and expect this to go away," said David Johnson, a Republican political consultant. "It looks like her campaign is circling the wagons."

    Brandon-based political consultant Mark Proctor said he advises clients to hold court early with the media to avoid a story dragging on for a week, as it has with Harris. The longer the story goes on, the more likely it is for voters to remember the issue come Election Day, he said.

    Harris may not be talking to the media and staying away from some events, but she is trying to control the damage in other ways. And she recently told her backers that she is making a fundraising push over the next few months.

    Harris organized a conference call on Friday with her most loyal supporters in which she downplayed her connections to MZM Inc., saying, "There is nothing to it except for the press trying to be negative."

    The company's owner admitted in federal court that he gave $32,000 in illegal campaign donations to Harris.

    Continuing with the conference call, Harris described a campaign on a roll and gaining momentum daily. She said prominent national politicians, like U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, RTenn., hosted a fundraising event for her in Washington last week, proof that all is well.

    "Now there is a buzz in Washington," Harris said on the call.

    Harris' ties to defense contractor MZM Inc. have been under the microscope since Feb. 24.

    That's the day when MZM founder Mitchell Wade admitted to bribing one member of Congress and giving Harris illegal contributions in March 2004.

    Over a private dinner in Washington, D.C., Wade and Harris talked about "obtaining funding and approval" for a Navy counterintelligence program that Wade wanted to open in Sarasota, Justice Department records show.

    After that dinner meeting, Harris put in a $10 million budget request to the Defense Appropriations subcommittee to fund the project. Days later, an employee in Harris' congressional office went to work for Wade at MZM.

    The funding for the project never was approved.

    Justice Department officials have refused to comment on Harris' role in the investigation, saying the query is ongoing.

    Harris still hasn't granted any interviews about the issue, but told supporters on the telephone that she did nothing wrong.

    "It was a legitimate project in our district for high-skilled, highwage jobs," Harris said.

    Federal investigators have said that Wade never told Harris that the 16 checks of $2,000 each in the name of MZM employees and their spouses were obtained illegally.

    Harris told her supporters on Friday's conference call that federal investigators have never asked her any questions about Wade or MZM.

    While Harris spoke to some of her supporters by phone a day earlier, others waiting for her in Port Charlotte on Saturday were upset that Harris canceled her trip to that county.

    "I'm really disappointed," said Charlotte County Republican Party Chairman Bob Starr.

    Harris' staff confirmed two days earlier that she would be at a ribbon-cutting to open a new party headquarters in Charlotte.

    But Starr said Harris' staff called back to cancel after he had already sent notices promoting the event.

    Harris' campaign staff declined to comment, and have offered no explanation for why Harris canceled the Charlotte trip. They also did not say how many other events were taken off her schedule.

    Prominent Republicans continue to back her campaign.

    "Katherine Harris is going to make a great U.S. senator," U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., said in video greeting to the Manatee County Republican Party last week.

    Also in Manatee County, Florida Republican Party Chairman Carol Jean Jordan called Harris the hardest-working campaigner she knows and said she would beat Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, in November.

    Even U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., who has been cool to Harris' candidacy, invited Harris to a weekly Republican caucus meeting, usually reserved only for Republican senators. The next day, Harris attended a Washington fundraiser.

    "It says the Republican leadership has accepted the political reality that Katherine Harris will be the GOP candidate for the United States Senate," said Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


  5. #5
    beltman713 Guest
    Karma's a bitch ain't it?

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by beltman713
    Just like she didn't do anything wrong during the 2000 presidential election.
    Of course she didn't...



    That's what she deserves.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by beltman713
    Karma's a bitch ain't it?
    And so is she...
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


  8. #8
    beltman713 Guest
    Ha ha!

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by beltman713
    Ha ha!
    Remember when she strutted her stuff for Hannity & Colmes?
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


  10. #10
    beltman713 Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by Gold9472
    Remember when she strutted her stuff for Hannity & Colmes?
    Yeah, she's got one great set of boobs, that's for sure. And she makes sure everyone knows it.

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