Courtesy of The Orlando Sentinel
By Aaron Deslatte
Published November 27, 2014
TALLAHASSEE -- Long before the first public maps were
released, critics say Florida Republican political operatives were
creating an "illusion" of non-partisanship over the once-a-decade
redistricting process with a "wink and a nudge toward their
collaborators in the Legislature.".
That illusion was outed Tuesday when the Florida Supreme Court released
thousands of pages of emails, testimony and sealed court records related
to the GOP political consulting firm Data Targeting, which was at the
center of the two-year legal fight over lawmakers' attempts to implement
anti-gerrymandering reforms passed by voters.
The Gainesville-based company's president, Pat Bainter, has been
fighting to block the release of over 500 pages of emails, maps and
other records from 2011 and 2012. The records provide some insight into
the lengths to which the political operatives went to influence the 2012
redistricting process in which the Legislature had been tasked for the
first time with drawing new legislative and congressional maps without
Last June, Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis ruled the GOP had
violated the 2010 Fair Districts reforms when it drew new congressional
districts, and blasted Republican political operatives for waging a
"secret, organized campaign to subvert the supposedly open and
transparent redistricting process."
"They managed to taint the redistricting process," Lewis penned, "and
the resulting map with improper partisan intent," by writing scripts for
people to use when testifying, and submitting public maps through
But Lewis had relied in part on the Data Targeting records which had
remained sealed until this weekend, when the emails were disclosed by
the Scripps-Tribune Capitol Bureau. The records had been slated for
release on Dec. 1 after the state Supreme Court rejected Bainter's
arguments that they were trade secrets and protected by the First
Given the leak, the high court released the records Tuesday.
They show the right-hand men of Florida's Republican legislative
leadership at the helm of a coordinated operation to recruit and
instruct people to submit "public" maps prepared by party operatives in
order to maintain GOP super-majorities in the Legislature.
The League of Women Voters of Florida and other groups have brought
legal challenges to the congressional and state Senate maps. Last
August, the Legislature relented and re-drew seven congressional
districts throughout Central Florida. The League is appealing the trial
court's decision to sanction that new map.
"The documents that these political operatives worked so hard to hide
from the public, along with their testimony given in closed proceedings,
reveal in great detail how they manipulated the public process to
achieve their partisan objectives," plaintiff lawyer David King said
Bainter was at the center of the effort.
During a deposition, Bainter professed to only having a passing
"interest" in the redistricting process, and had never submitted maps,
claiming "it was an intriguing process" to watch.
"I never actually completed a map. I found it way too tedious," Bainter
said under oath.
But behind the scenes, email show he arranged for intermediaries to
submit five maps drawn by GOP operatives. Bainter suggested he could
round up “10 more people at least” to do the same.
Through fellow Gainesville Republican Stafford Jones and consultant Rich
Heffley -- who has worked for current Senate President Andy Gardiner,
R-Orlando -- Bainter's shop provided a pipeline from the Republican
Party of Florida, which was preparing draft congressional and
legislative plans, to the Legislature's portal for public map
submissions, records show.
After RPOF operative Frank Terraferma submitted a proposed congressional
plan to Bainter in October 2011, Bainter wrote to his staff that "We
will NOT exactly copy this map, but it does give you something to go on.
In particular take note of the new Hispanic Central Florida District," a
version of which would later be won by Democrat Alan Grayson.
In another message that month to Bainter, consultant Anthony Pedicini
wrote he had an alternative map called "Impartial" that constructed a
Central Florida Hispanic congressional seat which would draw three Tampa
Bay Republicans into the same district.
"If that happens, I am going to talk to Dean and Cretul," Pedicini
wrote, referring to then House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, and
former Speaker Larry Cretul, R-Ocala, who went to work lobbying with
Bainter replied the same day, "I need a map. Time critical. I am being
pinged as we speak."
Over the next two months, his associates prepared draft maps, enlisted
people in specific legislative districts to submit them with
instructions on what to say, briefed GOP lawmakers and their political
consultants on maps, and repeatedly warned all the participants to avoid
creating an email chain.
"Want to echo Pat's reminder about being incredibly careful and
deliberative here, especially when working with people who are
organizing other folks," one Data Targeting employee, Matt Mitchell,
wrote on Nov. 29, 2011, ahead of legislative meetings on the maps.
"Must be very smart in how we prep every single person we talk to about
all of these," he went on. "If you can think of a more secure and
failsafe way to engage our people, please do it. Cannot be too redundant
on that front. Pat and I will probably sound almost paranoid on this
over the next week, but it will be so much more worthwhile to be
Another consultant then replied, "Just to ease your minds, I have tried
to do most of the asking over the phone, so their is no e-mail trail if
it gets forwarded.
"When I e-mail guidelines to people, the only thing I am putting in
writing is that it is important that we show support for the
redistricting process, and the way it was handled by the Senate, and ask
that they ask any like minded friends who they think would like to voice
their opinion to contact the committee as well," consultant Jessica
Corbett went on. "I only send templates to those who I have
spoken/e-mailed with and they know the mission and have agreed to help.
I have stressed discretion to all."
In another e-mail exchange, a Data Targeting staffer discusses with
former GOP Sen. Carey Baker, R-Eustis, who had been hired as an adviser
by then Senate President Mike Haridopolos, a process of "recruitment" to
get people with talking points to testify in favor of the Senate map.
The Senate map passed about three months later was quickly thrown out by
the Florida Supreme Court for violating the anti-gerrymandering
The 12-day trial over the congressional maps included top GOP political
operatives testifying about how they wanted a “seat at the table” and
circulated preferred versions of the maps, with names like
“Frankenstein,” “Sputnik,” and “Perfect Pieces.”
A former aide to Cannon leaked maps to one GOP consultant.
Another, Heffley, who worked for Senate President Don Gaetz,
R-Niceville, circulated GOP-favored maps to other consultants with the
hope that someone would submit them to the Legislature.
One of the biggest bombshells of the trial came courtesy of former
Florida State University student Alex Posada -- once praised by GOP
lawmakers for maps he supposedly submitted to the Legislature in 2011 –
who said under oath he was asked to participate and did not draw any of
the maps submitted under his name.
But Bainter's testimony was taken behind closed doors, with reporters
required to leave the court.
Bainter's lawyers have argued for more than a year that he would be
forced to release "trade secrets," and argued before the high court that
his First Amendment rights were being violated. The justices swept those
arguments aside, noting he had raised the constitutional right to
protected speech too late in the process.
Justice Barbara Pariente put it the most bluntly, in an opinion
begrudgingly concurring to granting Bainter 10 more days to ask the U.S.
Supreme Court to weigh in -- which it quickly declined to do.
"The public’s right to view these materials that the trial court relied
on in rendering its final judgment has been delayed long enough,"