TAMPA, Fla. – U.S. Senate candidate Katherine Harris' staff is considering whether to give away years-old campaign donations connected to a congressman who has admitted to federal corruption charges, her campaign spokeswoman said Friday.
Harris, a Sarasota Republican running against Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson, got $6,000 from U.S. Rep. Bob Ney's political action committee, American Liberty PAC, when she ran for Congress in 2002 and 2004.
Last week, Ney, R-Ohio, agreed to plead guilty for improperly accepting trips, meals, sports tickets and casino chips while trying to win favors for disgraced Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff and a foreign aviation company.
Several congressmen, senators and President Bush have given up contributions for past campaigns from Ney, Abramoff or aides and clients associated with them, in many cases by making donations to charity. Others have kept the money.
Harris told The Miami Herald on Thursday that she can't return or give away the money because it was spent, but her spokeswoman Jennifer Marks said Friday that staffers were still researching what to do.
"This is not something she did wrong," Marks said. "The key piece here is that the money was (donated) in 2002 and 2004. It was not in this election cycle or in this race."
Harris, however, already has donated to charity questionable contributions to her 2004 campaign. She gave away $32,000 this year after Mitchell Wade, a defense contractor who pleaded guilty to bribing disgraced former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, admitted he had illegally funneled the money.
Harris has said she didn't know Wade illegally reimbursed campaign donations from his employees and donated the money when she found out.
Nelson spokesman Dan McLaughlin said Harris' dealings "put her at the center of the largest congressional corruption scandal in history."
Polls show Nelson with a commanding lead over Harris.