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 partisan intent.
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 third-parties.
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 Amendment. Given the leak, the high court released the records Tuesday.