$10 Million to Pass Go

By Chris Cillizza and Zachary A. Goldfarb
Friday, March 17, 2006

Rep. Katherine Harris (R-Fla.) says people should count her in -- all the way in -- when it comes to her race against Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) this fall.

Harris appeared on the Fox News Channel's "Hannity & Colmes" show Wednesday night to dismiss rumors she would drop out of the race. In recent weeks, she has been buffeted by reports about her ties to a defense contractor who has been implicated in Washington influence-buying. The surprise came when she announced that she will make a $10 million personal contribution to bolster her candidacy.

"I'm going to put everything on the line," Harris told Hannity. "I'm going to commit my legacy from my father, $10 million." She said that the $10 million was her inheritance when her father, George, died in January. "This is everything that I have," Harris added.

That may not be exactly true, according to personal financial disclosure forms, which put Harris's net worth between $8 million and $37 million. She is also one of the heirs to the fortune of Ben Hill Griffin Jr., a citrus and cattle magnate. Griffin, Harris's grandfather, is also the namesake of the stadium where the University of Florida plays football.

On Capitol Hill yesterday, reviews were mixed about whether Harris's big check would right her flagging campaign. The donation brings her into better-than-even financial standing with Nelson, who at the end of 2005 had $8 million in the bank. But, according to one Republican strategist familiar with the state's politics, Harris's personal donation is simply the start of a long rebuilding process. "It's going to take $20 million to fix [her] self-inflicted wounds -- and those inflicted from the D.C. political establishment," said the operative.

Harris has struggled to unite the party establishment -- both in Florida and nationally -- behind her candidacy as many Republicans believe the divisive role she played during the 2000 presidential vote recount makes her unelectable. In a recent independent poll, Harris trailed Nelson by 20 percentage points.

Bush and Kerry Find Veto They Like

Talk about March Madness. There, sitting down together at the White House yesterday, were President Bush and his vanquished 2004 rival, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.).

Bush invited Kerry and a dozen other lawmakers to an event to support his proposal to allow the president to slice out individual spending items from appropriations bills. Kerry, who disagrees with Bush on almost everything else, proposed a line-item veto for the president during his campaign two years ago.

"It means a lot that people from both parties are here," Bush said as his former foe sat three chairs away in the Cabinet Room. "I particularly want to thank my opponent in the 2004 campaign, Senator Kerry, for being here. I can remember on the campaign trail, he said that he supported a line-item veto, and he is following through on his word by being here at the table. I'm proud you're here, Senator."

Kerry later issued a statement: "It's no secret that President Bush and I have our differences, but I fully support giving him the line-item veto and I will work to get the Senate to pass it into law."

Democrats Called AWOL on Iraq

Carter administration national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski had some harsh words for his own party yesterday for Democrats' failure to devise a clear alternative to the Bush strategy in Iraq. "Democratic leaders have been silent or evasive," Brzezinski said in a speech at the liberal Center for American Progress. "They have not offered an alternative to the war in Iraq. It's easy to criticize . . . although some of us did it sooner than others. But they haven't offered an alternative."

He added that Democrats' failure to effectively challenge the administration's handling of Iraq amounted to "political desertion."

Staff writer Peter Baker contributed to this report.

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