What does a $2800 dinner buy?

How about a $10 million government contract?

This latest glaring example of official corruption involves Rep. Katherine Harris (R-Fla.), the "Queen of Recount" from the 2000 Presidential election, and Mitchell Wade, the disgraced defense contractor who has already pled guilty to bribing convicted former Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham, and also to making $32,000 in illegal contributions to Harris’ 2004 campaign.

According to an article in the Orlando Sentinel, Wade then started wooing Harris for a $10 million contract for his company with a $2800 dinner at one of Washington D.C.’s more expensive restaurants. Over dinner he promised to organize a fundraiser for her 2006 Senate race, and simultaneously asked her if she would submit his contract request in the appropriations process. Harris complied, even thought the request was weeks late for the appropriations deadline and poorly written. And when her staff demurred, Harris, according to their statements, adamanently insisted that it be forwarded to the defense appropriations subcommittee. (The subcommittee ultimately rejected the request.)

In her defense, Harris told the Tampa Tribune in July of last year that she "knew little" about the $10 million project and insisted she had taken no special action to support it. As for the ultra-expensive dinner, she insisted for months that she had paid for her own food, only admitting recently that Wade had picked up the tab. She called this an "oversight" on her part and proceeded to contribute $100 to a Jacksonville ministry, saying that amount would "more than adequately compensate for the cost of my beverage and appetizers." (My goodness, but that Mr. Wade must eat and drink a lot!)

So Rep. Harris gives $100 as her share of a $2800 dinner with a convicted bribe artist, at the same time she’s willing to stick taxpayers with a $10 million tab for an unnecessary defense project. Sounds to me like someone is bucking for inclusion in our Hall of Shame – and/or an indictment from the Justice Department.

-Gordon Clark