Common Cause wants probe of Katherine Harris

A congressional watchdog group asked the Justice Department on Monday to investigate whether Rep. Katherine Harris, R-Fla., attempted to obtain a $10 million appropriation for a defense contractor in return for his financial support.

Common Cause filed a complaint with the Justice Department, citing information provided by contractor Mitchell Wade, as part of a plea agreement in the bribery case of convicted former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, R-Calif.

Justice Department spokesman Bryan Sierra said the department does not comment on, or confirm, criminal investigations.

Harris is a two-term House member who is running for the Senate. However, she is best known as the state official who certified President Bush’s 537-vote win in Florida in the disputed 2000 presidential election.

Wade, former president of MZM Inc., admitted making $32,000 in illegal contributions to Harris’ 2004 campaign for the House.

Harris said she did not knowingly do anything illegal and said she would donate the money to charity.

Wade said that he and a “Representative B” _ later identified as Harris _ had dinner in Washington in early 2005. The contractor said they discussed the possibility of Wade’s company hosting a fundraiser for the lawmaker _ and the possibility of Harris obtaining funding for a Navy counterintelligence program in her district.

The Common Cause complaint said that after the dinner, Harris sent a letter to the chairman and ranking member of a House subcommittee requesting funding for the counterintelligence program.

Harris’ office said in a news release that the request was for $10 million.

Federal law prohibits public officials from corruptly seeking or receiving anything of value in return for being influenced in the performance of any official act.

Harris is trying to unseat Sen. Bill Nelson, but statewide polls show her trailing the Florida Democrat by double digits. National Republicans have openly criticized her campaign and have tried to court other GOP candidates to challenge Harris in the primary. The filing deadline for the primary is May 12.