Katherine Harris Linked to Cunningham Scandal
Florida Congresswoman and Senate candidate Katherine Harris is the latest politician linked to the Duke Cunningham scandal, according to an AP report.
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.
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.”
I’m no fan of Harris but her explanation seems plausible enough.
As with the case of CIA Executive Director Kyle “Dusty” Foggo, the association with this scandal merits investigation. But mere contact with lobbyists who later turn out to be corrupt is not in and of itself evidence of corruption.