Group files criminal complaint against Rep. Katherine Harris

RAW STORY
Published: Monday May 1, 2006

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Common Cause, a nonprofit government watchdog group, filed a criminal complaint with the Department of Justice against Rep. Katherine Harris Monday, RAW STORY has learned.

The group's complaint alleges that Harris was bribed by a defense contractor who has already pled guilty to bribing former Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-CA). It alleges that Harris broke the law when the contractor paid $2,800 for a fundraising dinner the congresswoman held.

Cunningham was recently sentenced to eight years in prison.

Asked about the complaint Sunday by the Orlando Sentinel, a Harris spokesman declined comment. He suggested the charges were politically motivated.

The group's letter to the Justice Department follows. The complaint is also available on their web site.

Common Cause was founded in 1970 "as a vehicle for citizens to make their voices heard in the political process and to hold their elected leaders accountable to the public interest."

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Mr. Andrew Lourie
Acting Section Chief
Public Integrity Section
Criminal Division
Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Ave.
Washington, D.C. 20530-0001

Dear Mr. Lourie:

We believe the Public Integrity Division of the Department of Justice should conduct an investigation to determine if Representative Katherine Harris (R-FL) has violated U.S. Code 18§201: Bribery of public officials and witnesses.

The Chief Executive of MZM, Inc., Mitchell Wade, recently plead guilty to conspiracy, tax evasion, corrupting defense officials, and election fraud as a result of the investigation into former Representative Randolph "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA). MZM, Inc. is described as a homeland security and counterintelligence company. The statement includes references to other members of Congress in addition to Rep. Cunningham. According to the Statement of Offense, U.S.A. vs. Mitchell J. Wade, filed in the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia on February 23, 2006:

In early 2005, Wade dined with Representative B in Washington DC restaurant. At this dinner, Wade and Representative B discussed, among other topics, the possibility of MZM's hosting a fundraiser for Representative B later in the year, and the possibility of obtaining funding and approval for a Navy counterintelligence program in Representative B's district and locating an MZM office in that district.

Rep. Harris has been identified publicly as "Representative B." According to The Washington Post:

Washington defense contractor Mitchell J. Wade admitted yesterday in federal court that he attempted to illegally influence Defense Department contracting officials and tried to curry favor with two House members…

The new admissions, including details that identify Reps. Virgil H. Goode Jr. (R-Va.) and Katherine Harris (R-Fla.) as recipients of illegal campaign contributions, are contained in Wade's agreement to plead guilty to four criminal charges stemming from his role in the Cunningham probe.

Wade also pleaded guilty to election law fraud for making nearly $80,000 in illegal campaign contributions to "Representatives A and B," who are identifiable as Goode and Harris.

On April 26, 2005, after the dinner with Wade, Rep. Harris reportedly sent a letter to the chairman and ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Defense requesting funding for a project called, "U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service Airbourne Capability to Support Counter Intelligence and Combating Terrorism Missions." The project was an addendum to the package of funding requests Harris had already submitted. According to a press release from Rep. Harris' office, it was a $20 million request.

The description of the conversation between Wade and Rep. Harris, as it is described in the Statement of Offense, suggests that Harris took official action to obtain funding and approval for this military project in exchange for the offer of MZM's holding a fundraiser for Rep. Harris. The official action taken by Rep. Harris to insert a funding request for a counterintelligence project that appears similar to a program which Wade and Rep. Harris discussed in the same conversation as the fundraiser, as it is described in the Statement of Offense, suggests that Rep. Harris violated U.S. Code 18§201, which states:

(b) Whoever - (2) being a public official or person selected to be a public official, directly or indirectly, corruptly demands, seeks, receives, accepts, or agrees to receive or accept anything of value personally or for any other person or entity, in return for: (A) being influenced in the performance of any official act; shall be fined under this title or not more than three times the monetary equivalent of the thing of value, whichever is greater, or imprisoned for not more than fifteen years, or both, and may be disqualified from holding any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States.

Based on publicly available documents, we believe there is sufficient evidence to suggest that Rep. Harris has violated U.S. Code 18§201. We request that the Public Integrity Division investigate whether Rep. Harris violated U.S. Code 18§201.

Sincerely,

Chellie Pingree President, Common Cause

ENCLOSED: Statement of Offense, U.S.A vs. Mitchell J. Wade "Contractor Pleads Guilty to Corruption; Probe Extends Beyond Bribes to Congressman," The Washington Post, February 25, 2006 Letter from Rep. Haris to House Appropriations Committee Press Release from Office of Rep. Harris, March 2, 2006