Saturday, February 25, 2006

Harris and Goode Need to Accept Responsibility

At some point a public official is responsible for the legality of the campaign contributions they receive. Virgil Goode, (R-Va) and Katherine Harris, (R-Fla) have recently been named as recipients of illegal contributions from defense contractor, Mitchell Wade. Wade says that he did not inform them the contributions were illegal.

The actions taken by these two legislators come very close to looking like they were taken in exchange for the large sum of contributions given by employees of Wade's company, MZM, Inc. Just how much money does the reasonable person receive from one source before they start looking at these contributions with some skepticism when the source is asking for political favors?

Katherine Harris received $28,000 in checks from MZM employees. They were all in $2000 increments and all were dated 6/23/04. Two other checks for $2000 each were sent to Harris dated 4/1/04. These were from Wade's wife. Harris also received $10,000 in March from the MZM, Inc PAC which is included in the business services category and not the defense category of the report. Two checks for $5000 each were given to the Harris campaign on 3/3/04. The PAC donations while legal were made with funds that Wade forced employees to donate.

In less than a month's time the Harris campaign received $42,000 from basically one source and was aware of this because Wade made sure she was. Shortly after delivering the contributions to Harris, Wade took her to dinner where they discussed the possibility of MZM hosting a fundraiser for her campaign. They also discussed the possible funding of and approval for a Navy counterintelligence program to be located in the district Harris represents. According to the plea(via
TPM's Paul Kiel), "Wade later prepared a proposal for the Navy counterintelligence program and submitted it to Harris's staff." Several media sources have reported that Harris submitted the request, but the funding was not approved.

The Washington Post has this from the Harris campaign:
Harris spokeswoman Kara Borie said yesterday that the congresswoman acknowledges being "Representative B" in the court papers. Harris said in a statement that Wade had "discussed opening a defense plant in Sarasota that would create numerous high-skilled, high-wage jobs in my district." She said Harris had donated all her MZM donations to charity. "This case demonstrates the perils of a process in which candidates are sometimes asked to determine the intent of a contributor."
When that much money comes in from one company on the SAME DAY and a short time later the recipient is asked for favors ANY, ANY, ANY honest person would be able to connect those dots. Any person looking to do the right thing, the honest thing would know exactly what to do. Harris doesn't seem to have very good judgment in these situations. That conclusion isn't based on this one incident.

This isn't the first time that Harris has found herself in trouble after receiving bundled campaign contributions. While she was not charged with any wrongdoing in the first incident involving Riscorp insurance company, it doesn't appear that Harris learned much from the experience. Brian Gleason from the
Charlotte Sun-Herald wrote more back in June of last year.

CNN has this to
say in a current story. For more background see this Tampa Tribune piece. Josh Marshall initially broke the story at Talking Points Memo.


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