U.S. Rep. Dan Webster creates legal defense fund for redistricting battle

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As U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster remains in the center of the legal commotion over Florida’s invalidated congressional map, the Orlando Republican has set up a special legal-defense fund for donations to help pay for continuing  court costs.

Filed with the House Ethics Committee on Wednesday, the Daniel Webster Legal Expense Trust is now available for public review. According to Billy House of the National Journal, no funds have yet been raised.

Webster served as a former Florida House Speaker and Senate majority leader prior to his election in 2010 to Florida’s Eighth Congressional District.

House notes that Webster’s fund is “for the sole purpose of defraying the legal costs … in connection with his candidacy for an election to federal office,” according to the filing.

On Aug. 1, Florida Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis ruled the Legislature violated the state’s constitutional “Fair Districts” ban on favoring a particular political party as legislators redrew congressional boundaries of two central Florida districts to benefit the Republican Party.

Lewis found Webster’s 10th Congressional District contained an oddly shaped addition from the previous district, moved by state legislators to benefit Webster directly while improving Republican chances of victory.

Also under question was the meandering Fifth Congressional District represented by Democrat Corrine Brown. Lewis ruled the district created a majority-black voting-age population, which was not necessary under the Voting Rights Act; removing black voters from adjoining districts deliberately made the adjoining districts more Republican.

Responding to Lewis’ ruling, the Florida Legislature called a special early August session to rework congressional maps, revising seven of Florida’s 27 districts.

Nevertheless, the legal quarrelling continues, as the judge studies the reworked maps.

Members of Congress often start legal funds, commonly used for ethics proceedings or campaign finance matters, as well other matters. Through this process, lawmakers can solicit donations from the same donors as those who give to campaign funds.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.