With his district one of the main flash points in the fight over Florida's invalidated congressional map, GOP Rep. Daniel Webster has established a special legal-expense fund to solicit donations to help pay for his court fights.
Details of the Daniel Webster Legal Expense Trust are found in papers filed with the House Ethics Committee, forwarded last week to the House clerk's office for public review. No funds have been raised yet for the trust, according to the filing.
There was no immediate comment Thursday from the congressman, a former House speaker and Senate majority leader in the Florida Legislature who was first elected in his central Florida congressional district in 2010.
According to his filing, the fund is "for the sole purpose of defraying the legal costs "¦ in connection with his candidacy for an election to federal office."
The move comes on the heels of an Aug. 1 ruling by Florida Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis that the Legislature violated the state's constitutional ban on favoring a political party because congressional boundaries of two central Florida districts were redrawn to benefit the Republican Party.
As part of the decision, the judge found that the 10th Congressional District represented by Webster contained an oddly shaped appendage from a previous district that was moved over to directly benefit Webster, and to boost Republican chances.
The judge also focused on the serpentine 5th Congressional District held by Democrat Corrine Brown. Lewis determined it has been drawn to create a majority-black voting-age population even though it was not necessary to do so under the Voting Rights Act, and that by removing black voters from another district intentionally made an adjoining district more Republican.
In response, the Florida Legislature convened a special session this month to rework the congressional maps with revisions to seven of the state's 27 districts. But the legal wrangling continues as the judge considers that reworked plan.
Other members of Congress have legal funds, often related to ethics proceedings or campaign finance issues as well as redistricting battles. Under this process, lawmakers are allowed to solicit donations from many of the same contributors to their campaign funds.