Rep. Katherine Harris
Rep. Katherine Harris has only grown in
notoriety since her role as Florida Secretary of State during the 2000 presidential
election. This year, she made the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in
Washington list of most corrupt legislators. She took about $50,000 in corrupt
contributions from the head of MZM, Mitchell
Wade, who pled guilty to bribing Congressman Randy “Duke”
During 2000, Harris certified that Bush had carried the state before all the counties reported counts. Her ruling was overturned by the Florida Supreme Court but upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. Her position was a major conflict of interest: Harris had been named as George W. Bush's Florida campaign co-chair the year before and then served to validate the election.
Another controversy arose from her hiring of data collection company ChoicePoint, to comply a faulty list of thousands criminals to be barred from voting. The “felons” -- almost all democrats -- were purged from Florida’s voter rolls before the presidential election, a move that largely harmed the democrats. In 2005, ChoicePoint was fined $15 million after the company mistakenly sold the personal records of more than 163,000 consumers to inadequately vetted fake businesses.
A year after the election, Florida legislators questioned her spending, starting a special committee to investigate her bills. In 2001, The St. Petersburg Times reported that Harris amassed more than $106,000 in travel bills, more than any Cabinet officer and the governor. She visited eight countries on 10 foreign trips publicly paid for with tax payer money.
Nonetheless, a year later Harris won a congressional seat in a heavily Republic district. She considered running for Bob Graham’s Senate seat but was discouraged by White House officials. Harris waited until 2006 and then challenged Democratic Senator Bill Nelson. Despite being discouraged from running by party officials, Harris won the nomination. She’s now begrudgingly supported by the GOP.
In 2004, Harris accepted about $50,000 in contributions from employees of defense contractor MZM Inc. On one day alone, Harris collected 18 checks for $2,000 each from MZM employees and spouses. MZM head Mitchell Wade wanted Harris to help set up an MZM plant, part of the U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service Project, in her district. Wade had given hundreds of millions to congressmen including Reps. Virgil Goode Jr., R-Va., and Randy “Duke” Cunningham, R-Ca., to encourage them to set up facilities in their districts. Harris tried to do the same, but missed the deadline for the earmark.
Wade funneled $32,000 in personal checks from his employees to Harris. Retired Lt. General James King, now head of Athena Solutions (the re-named MZM) took part in the plan, writing four $2000 personal checks to the congresswoman. King was later repaid by Wade.
Harris also accepted gifts from Wade far over the $50 limit imposed on Congressmen. In March 2004 and again a year later, Wade picked up the bill for two dinners totalling $6,100 at Citronelle, a tony Washington restaurant.
Harris also received $6,000 from the political action committee of U.S. Rep. Bob Ney, who pled guilty to bribery charges.
It wasn’t the first time Harris pushed legislation in return for illegal contributions. Harris got $20,292 in illegal contributions from insurance company Riscorp during her 1994 state Senate campaign -- more than any other legislative candidate. In 1996, Harris sponsored a bill to block Riscorp competitors from Florida’s workers' compensation market.
Harris is also connected to Wally Hilliard, the owner of Huffman Aviation flight school, where several 9/11 hijackers took classes. Harris endorsed Hillard’s airline, Florida Air, during her last Congressional campaign. She also flew without charge on Skyway Aviation planes, also housed at Huffman. Ownership of Florida aviation companies named Skyway inlclude:
- James Bath - George W. Bush’s lifelong friend and Air National Guard buddy. Bath represented Saudi royal family investments in the United States, including the bin Laden family.
- Adnan Khashoggi - World notorious arms dealer (including the Iran/Contra conspiracy).
- Brent Kovar - appointed by Tom Delay to a national business advisory council, just before $40 million of investors’ money went missing and Skyway went bankrupt.