Florida Redistricting Fight Spawns a Lawmaker’s Legal-Expense Fund

GOP Rep. Daniel Webster established the fund this month.

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 16: Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL) (R) and Rep. Richard Nugent (R-FL) (L) confer while constitutional lawyers testify at a House Rules Committee hearing July 16, 2014 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. The committee heard testimony on Speaker of the House John Boehner's lawsuit against President Obama's use of executive power and providing for the authority to initiate litigation for actions by the President inconsistent with his duties under the Constitution of the United States (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
National Journal
Billy House
Aug. 21, 2014, 11:58 a.m.

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.

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