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US: Katherine Harris in Hot Water Over Defense Contractor

Associated Press
May 4th, 2006

A political strategist who left U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris (news, bio, voting record)'s Senate campaign last month said Harris ignored her staff's recommendation to reject a defense contractor's $10 million appropriation request, now being challenged by a congressional watchdog group.

Harris insisted the request be submitted even though it was late and hard to understand, according to a report in the Orlando Sentinel's Thursday editions. The newspaper cites Harris' former chief political strategist Ed Rollins.

"She told them she wanted it done," Rollins told the paper. "And she wanted it done now."

Harris spokesman Chris Ingram declined to comment Thursday when reached by The Associated Press. The Sentinel said Harris did not respond to its repeated inquiries.

On Monday, the congressional watchdog group Common Cause asked the Justice Department to investigate whether Harris attempted to obtain the appropriation in return for financial support from the defense contractor, Mitchell Wade.

In filing the complaint, Common Cause cited information provided by Wade as part of a plea agreement in the bribery case of convicted former Republican Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham of California.

Harris' campaign issued a statement calling the Common Cause complaint "false and outrageous." The statement said her work on behalf of Wade's company "was nothing more than an effort to secure jobs and economic opportunities" for her district.

Wade, former president of MZM Inc., has acknowledged making $32,000 in illegal contributions to Harris' 2004 campaign for the U.S. House. Harris said she did not knowingly do anything illegal and said she would donate that money to charity.

Harris, who drew national attention as Florida's secretary of state during the 2000 presidential recount, is now trying to unseat Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson (news, bio, voting record). Statewide polls show her trailing by double digits.

Rollins has said he left the Harris campaign because "Katherine wasn't listening to us." He previously served as President Reagan's political director and ran
Ross Perot's presidential campaign in 1992.

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