When Fox News host Sean Hannity featured Rep. Katherine Harris (R-FL), a candidate for the U.S. Senate in Florida, he failed to challenge her about her relationship with disgraced defense contractor Mitchell Wade. While Hannity did ask Harris to comment about $32,000 in illegal campaign contributions received from Wade, he did not press Harris about her request to the Defense Appropriations Committee for a $10 million counterintelligence project that would have benefited Wade's company, MZM Inc.
During an interview with Rep. Katherine Harris (R-FL), Republican candidate for a U.S. Senate seat in Florida, on the March 15 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, host Sean Hannity failed to challenge Harris about her efforts on behalf of disgraced defense contractor Mitchell Wade, who funneled tens of thousands in illegal campaign contributions to Harris's 2004 congressional campaign. Harris appeared on the program to announce her intentions to continue her campaign -- which a March 16 Miami Herald article described as "beleaguered" -- against incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), ending speculation that she was withdrawing from the race. Harris also announced she would be spending $10 million of her own money to finance her campaign efforts. The congresswoman first gained national attention in the aftermath of the November 2000 presidential election when, as Florida secretary of state, she presided over the recount of ballots and certified then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush as the winner in Florida, providing him with enough electoral votes to win the presidency.
Wade, president and CEO of defense company MZM Inc., pleaded guilty to four criminal charges resulting from his role in the bribery scandal that led to the conviction of and eight-year prison sentence for former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA). Cunningham resigned from Congress on November 28, 2005, after pleading guilty to accepting millions of dollars worth of bribes from defense contractors, including Wade, in exchange for help in winning military contracts. According to a February 25 Washington Post report, it was the Cunningham bribery scandal that first shed light on Wade's relationship with Harris. The Post also reported that Wade has admitted to trying "to curry favor" with Harris, pleading guilty to election fraud "for making nearly $80,000 in illegal campaign contributions," of which Harris received $32,000. The Post reported that, according to the court documents, Wade did so "in hopes that they [recipients of the illegal donations] ... would 'earmark' federal money for MZM. Wade gave the funds for the donations to 19 of his employees and their spouses, who then wrote $2,000 checks to the members."
While Hannity did ask Harris to comment about the illegal campaign contributions, he did not press Harris about her request to the Defense Appropriations Committee for a $10 million counterintelligence project that would have benefited MZM. In fact, according to a March 3 Associated Press report, Harris made the request after discussing military appropriations with Wade over dinner at a Washington restaurant "in early 2005," according to Harris.
A March 2 article in the Tampa Tribune reported that "[a]t the time [of the illegal contributions], MZM, its officers and its political action committee were Harris' largest single source of campaign money." Harris has claimed ignorance of the illegality of Wade's donations and has since reportedly donated the money to charity. Prosecutors have refused to say whether Harris is a subject of their ongoing investigation into the bribery scandal.
The "early 2005" meeting reportedly took place one year after Harris received Wade's illegal campaign contributions. According to the AP, Harris admitted to requesting earmarked funding from the House Defense Appropriations committee "for a Navy counterintelligence program involving" MZM." As the Miami Herald reported on March 3, Harris -- who initially refused to release any documents detailing the request -- relented on March 2 and "released details of a $10 million budget request she made on behalf of" Wade. In a statement that accompanied the released documents, Harris asserted that she "never requested the money in exchange for any contributions." Instead, the Herald reported, Harris argued that she requested the appropriation for the Navy program in order "to bring jobs to her Gulf Coast district." The proposed counter-intelligence program, according to a March 2 Tampa Tribune report, "would have included a new MZM office" in Harris' congressional district. But, as the Herald noted, the timing of the request has raised suspicions, as it was not part of the initial appropriations package submitted by Harris to the committee on March 18, 2005. Harris added the request for the counterintelligence program a month later, according to the Herald, four days after "a member of her congressional [staff], Mona Tate, left her office to work for MZM" -- presumably also after Harris met with Wade in "early 2005" to discuss obtaining funding for MZM. Harris did not receive the requested funding.
After being asked to comment about Wade's illegal campaign contributions on the March 15 Hannity & Colmes, Harris stated simply, "He was a bad guy. ... He promised he was going to bring jobs to my district." But Hannity did not ask Harris to explain how Wade's alleged "promise ... to bring jobs to my district" related to the $32,000 in illegal campaign contributions Harris received on Wade's behalf.
From the March 15 edition of Hannity & Colmes:
HANNITY: Now, one of the things that has come out and you've been dealing a lot in the press is this issue of Mitchell Wade. He had entered a guilty plea in the bribery case that brought down ex-California Republican Duke Cunningham. He admitted illegally funneling $32,000 in campaign contributions to you using the name of company employees.
HARRIS: If you keep reading on, it says the authorities say that I could not have known. I did not know, and I didn't --
HANNITY: But there's been a lot of press about it, but do you want to say anything about it?
HARRIS: Sure. He was a bad guy.
HANNITY: And you did with the money?
HARRIS: He promised he was going to bring jobs to my district. And he's a bad guy. But when we found out that he had, at a later date, reimbursed his employees, which by the way, is illegal --