22 June 2005

Katherine Harris may face fundraising scandal

She's been in the United States Senate race to challenge Bill Nelson for just about a week, but Katherine Harris (R-Sarasota) is already under the microscope for possible fundraising irregularities. Her opponents have called her many names over the past few years. Now here's a new one: The Bundler.

Bundling is the practice of rounding up contributions from various contributers. The act is technically legal, but the loophole is frowned upon by those who seek real campaign finance reform in American politics. Both parties exploit the rule, but Republicans do it much more effectively. Corporate executives are in a much better position to coerce subordinates, who will then write checks to the candidate of the executive's choice. This firsthand report from the Washington Post explains the process well:


According to the Talking Points Memo, three former senior officials from a prominent defense contractor firm have described the process from which they were pressured to contribute money to Republican candidates. One of the employees described being rounded up along with other employees one afternoon in the company's Washington headquarters and told to write a check with the political recipient standing by. The company contributed to Katherine Harris, among other prominent Republicans, but this employee would not reveal the name of the specific candidate who was in the room. We do know that the company, MZM, Inc., did in fact make 14 separate contributions on March 23, 2004 in the amount of $2000 each, the maximum amount allowable under the law, to Katherine Harris' reelection campaign. The MZM PAC also gave large amounts of money to Republicans, including $10,000 to Harris.

These events would not be a major story except when you look at the story behind the story. Who is the CEO of MZM, Inc.? His name is Mitchell Wade, and he is known around DC as being a major political player. Recently Republican Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-California) has been under the microscope for his dealings with MZM. Apparently, Cunningham sold his Del Mar, CA home to Wade for the inflated amount of $1,700,000. About one year later, Wade put the house back on the market and lost $700,000 in the sale. That's quite a profit for Congressman Cunningham. Following this generous sale to the Congressman, real estate records show that Cunningham paid $2.55 million in cash for a five-bedroom home at 7094 Via Del Charro in the upscale Rancho Santa Fe area of North County. Unfortunately for Congressman Cunningham and Mr. Wade, local law enforcement officers and the FBI are curious over this deal and are investigating the sale. We'll see what they find.

Ties to Harris? We don't know yet. We do know that she was one of the select few Republicans who met with Wade and took bundled funds from his firm. The Cunningham-Wade debacle is sure to blow up and take down some bad Republicans. But will Katherine Harris be one of them? She's close enough to the scandal, so only time will tell. Stay tuned ...

3 Comments:

Anonymous tdog said...

I don't think this is a big deal yet. Right now it is just Harris bundling, which all candidates do. If Cunningham falls from grace and this company becomes the new Jack Abranoff, then Harris' MZM connection could become an issue.

Not a home run yet, but let's keep our eyes on this one.

11:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I see this issue made the MSM. Good job. Read it at:

http://www.sptimes.com/2005/06/26/news_pf/State/Contractor_under_inqu.shtml

8:21:00 PM  
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