Thursday, August 03, 2006

Former Aide Says Rep. Katherine Harris' Senate Campaign Subpoenaed by Federal Grand Jury; Ex-Aide Says Harris Hid Subpoena

ABC News
Ex-Aide Says Harris Hid Subpoena
Former Aide Says Rep. Katherine Harris' Senate Campaign Subpoenaed by Federal Grand Jury
The Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. - Rep. Katherine Harris' floundering Senate campaign received a grand jury subpoena from federal investigators, but she kept it from her top advisers, prompting several staff members to quit when they found out, a former aide said Wednesday.

The Justice Department is investigating Harris' dealings with Mitchell Wade, a defense contractor who pleaded guilty to bribing another congressman.

Harris, a Republican, has trailed Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in most polls. Fundraising has been slow, GOP leaders tried desperately to find another candidate, and core campaign staff members have quit in recent months.

Some Republican leaders have warned that Harris the former Florida secretary of state who played a key role in the 2000 recount that gave George W. Bush the White House is so hated among Democrats that she could drag down the entire GOP ticket.

In June, the Harris campaign received a legal bill for thousands of dollars that contained a reference to "DOJ subpoena," according to the aide, who spoke with The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to avoid hurting his career.

It was only then that Harris disclosed that the campaign had received the Department of Justice subpoena, the aide said.

About two weeks later, the aide and several other campaign staff quit. The disclosure was one of several factors that led to their departures, the aide said.

Harris was reached on her cell phone Wednesday by the AP, but said she had a bad connection and referred the call to her campaign office.

Campaign spokeswoman Jennifer Marks said Harris is cooperating with the investigation but is "not a target." She would not comment further.

This week, two former members of Harris' congressional and Senate campaign staffs said they had been contacted by the FBI.

The receipt of the subpoena was first reported by The Tampa Tribune, which spoke with former campaign manager Glenn Hodas. Hodas, the third person to hold the position, resigned after three months on the job, saying Harris was uncontrollable.

Wade admitted giving Harris $32,000 in illegal campaign contributions. Harris sought $10 million in federal money to help Wade's company, MZM Inc., set up a Navy counterintelligence program in her district. The request was rejected.

Harris has said that she was not aware of the illegal contributions and that she was only trying to bring high-wage jobs to her district.

In February, Wade pleaded guilty to bribing former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, in exchange for help in getting $150 million in Pentagon contracts.

Gov. Jeb Bush said Wednesday that Harris has had "a tough go at it."

"I feel bad. Every time there's a story about the Senate race it's about her troubles rather than about ideas that might help our country or help our state," he said. "It just seems like it's one bad news story after another."

Still, those who've worked for her say nothing will get her out of the race that even Republican leaders say she can't win.

"I honestly believe that if she's indicted, she will continue to run," said Jamie Miller, a former campaign manager. "At this point I don't know what she could be thinking."