TALLAHASSEE -- The shadow redistricting process that brought down the congressional map was also in full swing in the state Senate's efforts to redraw its own districts, depositions and email documents submitted as part of a court case now reveal.
The documents, filed Wednesday in Leon County Circuit Court as part of a lawsuit over the Senate map, show that Republican operatives faked "public" submissions, forwarded maps to Senate staff, and created Republican-leaning pieces that became the foundation of the adopted Senate redistricting plan.
The same tactics emerged in the congressional redistricting trial that led to the Florida Supreme Court's ordering the maps redrawn in a special session that ends this week.
Documents show the elaborate plan, involving staffing up public hearings with fake testimony and building maps in the shadows, involved many of the same
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Republicans advisers who influenced the congressional plan -- long-time political consultant Rich Heffley, Gainesville-based operative Pat Bainter and Republican Party of Florida adviser Frank Terraferma.
Testimony also shows the degree to which former Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, was aware of the process.
According to depositions and documents obtained by the Herald/Times, Heffley and Terraferma were working on producing maps and forwarding them to Senate staff more than a month before the Senate released its proposed map Nov. 28. Before the public release of that map, Gaetz was privately conducting secret briefings with individual state senators via video conference in which they discussed possible alterations to the map.
Gaetz would later tout the process as "the most transparent" redistricting in Florida history. John Guthrie, former staff director of the Senate Reapportionment Committee who retired in June, said Gaetz intentionally met individually with senators so they could "share their reactions" and avoid the public meeting requirements of Senate rules.
"One of the purposes of those meetings was for the chairman and staff to get insights from members of the committee about factors that -- they may not have been otherwise aware of regarding what made sense in terms of providing effective representation to the constituencies in their region," Guthrie said in a deposition taken July 29.
In his deposition, Guthrie recalled meeting with state Sens. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, and Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, former state Sen. Nan Rich, D-Plantation, and the late state Sen. Larcenia Bullard, D-Miami. Attempts to reach Gardiner and Latvala were unsuccessful.
Rich said Thursday she told the Herald/Times she had many meetings with Gaetz and Guthrie and recalls telling him she "felt very strongly that everything come through the committee process and not be brought by individuals who were looking out for their self interest." She said she believed the map was unconstitutional and was one of only five senators, all Democrats, to vote against it.
Guthrie said in his deposition the discussions resulted in changes to the maps. "I followed (state) Sen. Gaetz's direction as to whether or not he would like to make any modifications in the draft based on what we heard."
The depositions are part of a second lawsuit brought by the League of Women Voters, Common Cause and coalition of Democrat-leaning voters challenging the Legislature's redistricting maps for violating the anti-gerrymandering provisions of the Florida Constitution. The Fair Districts amendments bar lawmakers from reapportioning the state in a way that intentionally protects or favors incumbents or political parties.
The Florida Supreme Court ruled 5-2 in July the secretive process that allowed GOP operatives to infiltrate the redistricting process had "tainted" the congressional map and proved it was the product of "illegal partisan intent." The court ordered lawmakers to redraw eight districts and they are in the final two days of a two-week special session to do that.
In a nod to the developing facts in the pending Senate case, the Senate admitted July 28 it violated the constitution's anti-gerrymandering provisions, and joined with the House to schedule a special session for October to redraw their maps in an effort to have the case dismissed.
As the House and Senate held public hearings in 2011, the documents show, GOP operatives were conducting a carefully orchestrated attempt to stock the meetings with people who could influence the outcome.
Alex Patton, a Republican consultant in Gainesville, was asked by his then-business partner Stafford Jones, who was chairman of the Alachua County Republican Committee, to read from prepared talking points and pretend to be confused about the Fair Districts amendments.
"Why do I got to be the confused guy?" Patton wrote in an email. He would later forward to the Senate redistricting website a map from Stafford that purported to be Patton's work but was drawn by other operatives. Plaintiffs' attorneys allege it was the work of Heffley and Terraferma and would ultimately include major parts of the final Senate map. Heffley denies the allegations.
Guthrie testified he took direction from Gaetz and would occasionally share draft maps with Senate counsel Michael Carvin and Gaetz's chief of staff, Chris Clark. Guthrie testified while he saved about 50 draft maps, he did not turn over drafts that match those drawn by the operatives to lawyers because he had deleted them.
Documents show one of those maps, produced by Terraferma, the RPOF's top map drawer, was provided in a zip file to Carvin on Oct. 28. Eight days later, testimony shows, Heffley, who was Gaetz's long-time political consultant, wrote this was to be the Senate map released to the public. Terraferma then sent a note to Mike Wild at the Republican National Committee offices.
"I have seen, for the first time, this evidence, you know, today," Guthrie testified. " I have no basis for disagreement."
Under questioning from plaintiff's lawyer David King, Guthrie acknowledged the political operatives knew more about the direction of the Senate map than the 28 members of the Senate Reapportionment Committee.
"You're making a logical deduction," he said.
Guthrie defended the destruction of the draft map drawn by the operatives as routine.
"My personal practice was not to retain the hundreds of thousands of iterations of -- of draft plans that I went through in trying to craft or model districts, pursuant to Senator Gaetz's direction, that complied with the state constitution," he said.
According to the emails and draft maps, Terraferma and Heffley drew 14 of the districts in the Senate's proposed map.
At one point, Terraferma noted he had "downloaded the political data" on CDs he gave Heffley.
The district drawn for Bullard "was back in style," Terraferma wrote, hinting a previous version of the map had dismantled it. "Maybe we should call it the Lazarus seat instead," he wrote.
A map numbered 143 was drawn by Terraferma and forwarded to Alex Patton who submitted it as his own, using his personal email account -- not the email account from his political consulting firm.
Heffley said he worked as a political consultant to Senate campaigns and denied he was involved in the process.
"I have testified under oath in court and deposition about not drawing maps," he said Thursday. "Anything else to the contrary is completely and utterly false. I was a consultant to Senate campaigns. Period. I did not draw the maps or tell the Senate how to draw them."
Documents show other members of the RPOF staff worked to deliver support for the proposed Senate map. Andrew Wiggins of RPOF set a series of goals for getting enough public response, a process that enabled them to live up to Gaetz's claim that this would be the most publicly responsive redistricting process in state history.
"Between November 29 and December 5 distribute all comments in support of proposed maps," Wiggins wrote. The goals: 100 emails, 50 phone calls and 10 YouTube videos.
Another GOP adviser passed along a warning from Bainter, however.
"Pat said that he would rather us be careful and send out less messages," Robert Krames wrote. "Don't be passing around templates for people to distribute secondhand for you. Pat said he wanted to talk directly to anyone who we send a template to."
Bainter's partner, Matt Mitchell, sent a similar admonition.
"I want to echo Pat's reminder about being incredibly careful and deliberative here, especially when working with people who are organizing other folks," Mitchell wrote. "Must be very smart in how we prep every single person we talk to about all of these. If you can think of a more secure and failsafe way to engage our people please do it. Pat and I will probably sound almost paranoid on this over the next week, but it will be much more worthwhile to be cautious."