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In The Loop
Posted at 02:10 PM ET, 05/21/2012

CATCHING UP WITH... Katherine Harris


Katherine Harris and Anders Ebbeson’s mansion, featuring 18,000 square of air-conditioned area, was inspired by the Rodin House in Paris. (Harold Bubil. - Sarasota Herald Tribune)

For someone who enjoyed the spotlight as much as former Rep. Katherine Harris seemed to, she’s been remarkably low key of late — that is, if you don’t count that palatial waterfront mansion she’s constructing in Florida.

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune describes the home (and check out the ocean-side view of the house) that Harris and her husband, Swedish businessman Anders Ebbeson, are building on the bay, south of downtown Sarasota, as a “French inspired mini-palace,” and it’s reportedly as large as 23,000 square feet (18,000 of which are air-conditioned) — that’s seven times larger than the White House residential quarters, though only twice as big as the beachfront home GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney is planning.

The lavish abode isn’t sitting well with some neighbors, and there’s been grumbling, we hear, about the massive project. Back in Washington, those familiar with Harris’s notoriously rough treatment of her staff (she cycled though campaign aides the way some people go through clean socks) have been expressing sympathy for the contractors and other workers involved in the project. “She treated staff like the hired help, you can only imagine how she treats the actual hired help,” says one Harris-watcher.

We aren’t surprised to hear that Harris covets a Versailles of her very own: nothing less would befit a former Secretary of State (nevermind that it was for the state of Florida, Harris justified travel to foreign countries by explaining that her job as secretary of state demanded it).

Lately, though, Harris has steered far clear of politics. We hear she often attends charity fundraisers in the Sarasota area, but doesn’t engage in politics. Her disastrous 2006 Senate campaign might have soured the game for her altogether.

During that run, Harris lost badly to incumbent Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson. The messy campaign included money problems, which she promised to solve by donating $10 million of her own money — which never materialized — , high-profile staff turnover, and revelations that she once ate a $2,800 dinner at Citronelle with a defense lobbyist later convicted of bribing a public official.

But Harris, of course, is best known for her role in the 2000 presidential election, in which she certified the victory of George W. Bush over Al Gore. And just as memories of that hanging-chad debacle were fading from popular memory, along came the 2008 movie “Recount,” in which actress Laura Dern played Harris.

As if that wasn’t enough of a legacy, the architect working on the Harris mansion was quoted in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune explaining what made clients like his tick. “They have a need or a desire to accomplish something very significant in their lifetimes,” said architect Thorning Little. “An outward expression in the form of built structure, especially in a custom residence, is a profound thing for them.”

We suppose “profound” is one way to describe it.

[Catching Up With ... is a regular Loop feature checking in with newsmakers of yore. Send your suggestions for future subjects to intheloop@washpost.com]

By  |  02:10 PM ET, 05/21/2012

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