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Katherine Harris ex-aides added to investigation

Federal investigators are examining her dealings with a contractor who made illegal campaign contributions.

By ANITA KUMAR, Times Staff Writer
Published August 9, 2006

WASHINGTON - Federal investigators want to question two more former staffers of Rep. Katherine Harris as part of a growing federal inquiry into the relationship between the congresswoman and a defense contractor.

The FBI called Jim Dornan, a former campaign manager for Harris' Senate campaign, and Kara Borie, a former spokeswoman in Harris' congressional office, last week. Neither has been questioned yet.

Dornan, who left Harris in November and is now a political consultant working on a congressional campaign in New York, would not confirm the call. Borie, who left Harris in March and is now a spokeswoman for the Republican Party in South Carolina, would not comment.

Investigators with the Justice and Defense departments are examining Harris' dealings with Mitchell Wade, who made illegal campaign contributions to her and later asked her to help secure $10-million in federal money for a company project.

In recent weeks, authorities have spoken to former Harris chief of staff Fred Asbell and Ed Rollins, her former top campaign consultant who conducted an internal inquiry into Harris and Wade.

Harris, a Longboat Key Republican who is expected to win the party's nomination for Senate next month, received a subpoena from federal investigators for documents in the spring, but she said recently she has not been questioned.

"We won't do anything to impede with what they're trying to accomplish," Harris said last week after attending a campaign event in Pinellas County. "We want to do everything to help, and we have."

Harris spokeswoman Jennifer Marks reiterated Tuesday that federal officials told Harris that she was not a target of the investigation. But former federal prosecutors say someone being investigated might not be considered a target at this point in an inquiry.

Harris hired prominent Washington lawyer Benjamin Ginsberg, who specializes in campaign law, after she was publicly identified as having received illegal contributions from Wade.

Ginsberg is no longer representing Harris. He did not return calls Tuesday.

Harris' ties to Wade's company, MZM, have been troubling her already rocky campaign to unseat Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson since Wade pleaded guilty in February to bribing former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif.

Wade gave Harris tens of thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions and paid for at least two dinners in Washington totaling about $6,000. Later, after one of her staffers went to work for Wade, Harris tried, but failed, to secure $10-million for Wade to build an intelligence facility in her Sarasota area congressional district.

Dornan and Borie were not working for Harris when she received the donations or requested the money for the project, but both discussed the situation with Harris and other staffers later when it became known.

Harris faces three candidates - retired Adm. LeRoy Collins of Tampa, Orlando lawyer Will McBride and Safety Harbor developer Peter Monroe - in the Sept. 5 primary. The winner will face Nelson in November.

Anita Kumar can be reached at akumar@sptimes.com or 202 463-0576.

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