In his plea, defense contractor Mitchell Wade, admitted to paying his employees to make campaign contributions to two Republicans, though he says these two did not know the contributions were illegal. In the 2004 cycle Katherine Harris(R-Fla) received $32,000 from employees of MZM, Inc and Virgil Goode(R-Va) received $23,551. Goode also received $34,625 in the 2006 cycle. The above information is from Open Secrets.
According to Paul Kiel of TPM's Daily Muck:
After Wade made the campaign contributions, Wade asked that one of the Representatives and his staff request appropriations funding for an MZM facility. The Representative's staff later confirmed to Wade that an appropriations bill would include $9 million for the facility.
After making the illegal campaign contributions to the other Representative, Wade had a personal dinner with the Representative, in which the two discussed the possibility of MZM's hosting a fundraiser for the Representative later in the year, and the possibility of obtaining funding and approval for a Navy counterintelligence program. That program was never funded.
Both of these transactions appear to run a very fine line between a quid pro quo and just doing a favor for an important donor.(Really BIG favors)
In this June 2005 article in the San Diego Union-Tribune, Marcus Stern writes that Wade forced employees to contribute to the MZM PAC. According to an MZM employee:
"By the spring of '02, Mitch was twisting employees' arms to donate to his MZM PAC," said one former employee. "We were called in and told basically either donate to the MZM PAC or we would be fired."
During the 2002 cycle Open Secrets shows MZM employees contributed a little over $14,000 to the PAC and that grew to a little over 84,000 in the 2004 cycle. I haven't yet followed the contributions made to members of Congress from the MZM PAC. The arm-twisting technique is clearly illegal, but I did not see that charges have been brought on this particular transgression.
Harris and Goode were targeted intentionally by Wade. According to Keith Ashdown, an analyst with Taxpayers for Common Sense (via the Union-Tribune):
"A lot of people will throw a lot of money at a lot of different people," Ashdown said. Wade's "strategy was, 'I need to make friends with a few very influential lawmakers and really, really schmooze and coddle them and that's how I'm going to make my money.' And that's what he did.
"The first person is Cunningham, a senior guy on the (defense appropriations) committee, and he helps them get business. Then they go to another guy on the (defense appropriations) committee, Goode, who's more junior but has the benefit of getting a facility in his district. And then they go to Katherine Harris, who isn't on the committee but needs lots of money for her Senate race and would be bringing business and new jobs to her area," Ashdown said.
This is a developing story. Look for more soon. I will link to a plea agreement as soon as I find it online.
Note: The amount of contributions to Harris and Goode that I calculated differs from that shown in the Union-Tribune article. My numbers came from an employer search through the Open Secrets data. I have not verified them with an actual FEC search.
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