Catching up with Katherine Harris
By Al Kamen,
For someone who enjoyed the spotlight as much as former congresswoman 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 waterfront home that Harris and her husband, Swedish businessman Anders Ebbeson, are building 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 the size of the White House residential quarters, though only twice as big as the beachfront home that her fellow Republican 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 through 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. (Never mind 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 the political fray. We hear she often attends charity fundraisers in the Sarasota area but doesn’t engage in politics. Her disastrous 2006 Senate campaign may have soured the game for her altogether.
During that run, Harris lost badly to Democratic incumbent 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 Laura Dern played Harris.
As if that weren’t enough of a legacy, the architect working on the Harris mansion was quoted in the Sarasota paper explaining what made clients like his tick. “They have a need or a desire to accomplish something very significant in their lifetimes,” said the architect, Thorning Little. “An outward expression in the form of built structure, especially in a custom residence, is a profound thing for them.”
“Profound” is one way to describe it.
Catching Up With . . . is a regular Loop feature about newsmakers of yore. Send your suggestions for future subjects to email@example.com.
Take your best shot
The Loop has gotten lots of entries in our contest to pick the site to locate a missile-defense system on the East Coast. From the Jersey Shore (to protect that national treasure, Snooki ) to a goof-prone town called Accident, Md. (what could possibly go wrong there?), you’ve got plenty of ideas for where the big guns should go.
But we’re looking for more!
You have until Friday to submit your suggestions for where the Pentagon should install the sites, which are meant to protect us from as-yet-nonexistent missiles from Iran and North Korea, and which the top military brass says we don’t really, well, you know . . . need.
But, hey, the West Coast has some, and we want in. But where to put them? That’s up to you!
Alas, a few of you have even written in with suggestions for where missiles should be aimed, not where the anti-missile missiles should be located. We’ve chuckled over a few such entries — but they won’t earn you a place in the winner’s circle (and one of our coveted Loop T-shirts).
You can leave your entry as a comment on the blog (washingtonpost.com/intheloop) — you may want to double-check that there’s an active e-mail address associated with your washingtonpost.com log-in.
You can also e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Please make sure you include a home or cellphone number so we can contact you.)
The top five winners will receive a coveted In the Loop T-shirt and the usual bragging rights when we announce winners. (If you need to enter “on background,” that’s fine.)
Happy missile-siting, folks.
Fine. Stay inside.
Maybe the great outdoors isn’t as appealing as it used to be.
The fourth annual National Get Outdoors Day, scheduled this year for Saturday, June 9, aims to get kids — and adults — out to parks and forests across the country to hike, fish, pitch a tent and learn about nature.
The event, a person who had been involved in the program told us, was also seen as a way to fight child obesity by getting kids off their keisters and on the move.
It’s a public-private sponsorship by federal, state and local government agencies as well as the recreation industry. A Bush administration official told us relevant government officials were “endlessly flogged” to make sure a pilot effort of the event was a success.
In 2009, events were held at 63 sites in various parks and recreation areas nationwide. There were 91 events in 2010 and 117 last year, according to the organization’s Web site, at nationalgetoutdoorsday.org.
But the Web site this year lists only 70 events. In prior years there were events in Anacostia Park, a couple in Maryland and at least one in Virginia. This year there are none listed in the District or in Virginia and only one in Maryland, out on the Eastern Shore.
This decline comes despite the Obama administration’s energetic campaign, led by first lady Michelle Obama, to get people to focus on healthy food and exercise.
Well, one reason for the large fall-off may be that the focus now is on an “outdoors month,” a U.S. Forest Service spokesman tells us, so “National Get Outdoors Day is just one of the days in June with events aimed at getting Americans” out and enjoying.
Or maybe we can blame all those video games? With Emily Heil
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