Saturday, March 04, 2006

Why We Need Clean Elections

Yesterday I posted on the drop in temperature for Congressional ethics reform (scroll down to "Ethics Reform?"). I suggested that once attention was diverted away from the Abramoff story to the latest regime scandal, Congress didn't feel the need to clean up its collective act so much.

Ironically, in today's papers we learn that Randall "Duke" Cunningham (R-Ca) was sentenced to 8+ years for selling his office and that Katherine Harris (R-Fla)has admitted that she requested funding for a project in her home state on behalf of a campaign contributor.

Rep. Katherine Harris (R-Fla.) has acknowledged that she requested last year that $10 million in federal funds be set aside for a Navy intelligence program in her district at the request of Washington contractor Mitchell J. Wade, who pleaded guilty last week to bribing another House member.

Harris, who gained notoriety as secretary of state in Florida during the contested Bush-Gore presidential race in 2000, is running for the Senate this year. News media in her home state have been focusing on her dealings with Wade since prosecutors disclosed last week that she was the unwitting recipient of $32,000 in illegal campaign donations from Wade in 2004.

In a statement Thursday, Harris said: "I never requested funding for this project in exchange for any contributions, but rather to bring more high-skill, high-wage jobs to the region."

In court filings as part of Wade's plea for bribing convicted former representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.), prosecutors said Wade had had dinner with Harris early last year and discussed another fundraising event and possible funding for an unnamed Navy counterintelligence program. The court filing said the project was not funded but did not address whether Harris sought funding. She did not respond to questions about such a request last week.
[emphasis added]

Rep. Harris did release a list of projects she did request funding for, and Wade's counterintelligence program was listed. That provides the background of her statement on Thursday. While the Florida press may be having a field day with this admission (Harris is running for a Senate seat this year), it is entirely possible that Ms. Harris is telling the truth: she didn't know the actual source of the $32,000 in campaign contributions at issue. The contributions came from a number of individuals (all Wade employees) who were then reimbursed by Wade, thereby avoiding contribution limit laws. It is also possible that Ms. Harris was telling the truth when she plumped for the project to provide high paying jobs for her district.

Nevertheless, it still looks bad. It looks like she was on the take, albeit for a relatively miniscule amount (she is, after all, only a rookie). All of this could have been avoided if we had a public finance law on the books for Congressional seats. Her money would have come from the government, not from people who would expect her to return the favor. Of course, those who expect that kind of 'continuous campaign funding,' people like Duke Cunningham, would never go for such a dramatic change.

Hell, they won't even go for an independent watchdog ethics committee.

And that's why we are where we are.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cunningham has been named a 'Howdy Doody Looking Nimrod'. Maybe Harris is next?

7:20 PM  

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