DOCUMENTS OFFER PORTRAIT OF CONSULTANTS' REDISTRICTING EFFORTS

BRANDON LARRABEE | THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA | 09/11/2013

THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, As Florida lawmakers, politicos and voters held a public discussion about the once-a-decade redistricting process in 2011 and 2012, Republican consultants were quietly and busily drawing maps that they later said were produced largely because of their interest in the process.

Meanwhile, GOP operatives were discussing redistricting with officials in Washington, former Congressman David Rivera was touching base with House leaders, and one consultant was writing to another about an offer of help from "friends with deep pockets."

Those portraits emerge from more than 100 pages of depositions filed recently in Leon County Circuit Court as part of the legal battle over whether the maps approved last year comply with the Fair Districts standards, a set of anti-gerrymandering constitutional amendments approved by voters in 2010.

The depositions by Marc Reichelderfer, a consultant, and Frank Terraferma, an employee of the Republican Party, paint the clearest picture yet of how a variety of outside forces worked to try to understand and influence a process that legislative leaders dubbed as the most transparent in state history.

While other documents released in the case have hinted at the efforts by consultants and party officials to come to grips with the process in light of the Fair Districts amendments, the testimony by Reichelderfer and Terraferma represents the fullest picture yet of what was happening on the periphery of the visible portion of redistricting.

Reichelderfer did not return phone calls seeking comment on his deposition. Through a Republican Party of Florida spokeswoman, Terraferma declined to comment because the case was still pending.

But according to their testimony, maps flew between political consultants as the redistricting process neared, while lawmakers sought and sometimes received information about how proposed districts would perform politically — something that could factor heavily into the central question of the lawsuit: whether lawmakers disregarded the Fair Districts standards.

Two lawsuits, filed by a coalition of voting-rights groups, challenge the Senate and congressional maps approved by the Legislature in 2012, but not the House districts.

Information found its way to lawmakers and their aides about which party certain proposed districts were expected to favor. Reichelderfer conceded in a deposition that he told legislators who were his clients, as well as other people involved in the redistricting process, about the political balance of some of the districts.

"Did you tell Mr. Pepper or any other staffer, or any of the legislators involved in the process, how the Senate maps would perform politically?" one of the lawyers for the coalition asked Reichelderfer. The lawyer was referring to Kirk Pepper, an aide to then-House Speaker Dean Cannon.

After an objection by a lawyer for the Senate, the consultant answered simply: "Yes."

"Well, considering I have clients in the Legislature and in the Senate specifically, when a map comes out, as their consultant, I would be the first person they would call to ask what those, what does this map do for them," Reichelderfer said in response to a follow-up question. "So that would be the context in which I would answer those questions."

The consultant said he had similar discussions with House members who were his clients about the House maps, but clarified later that he didn't recall having conversations with Pepper about political performance. Reichelderfer said he saw "a difference between an individual member asking about their own district versus asking about the performance of the map in total." He stressed that the conversations would happen after the maps were made public.

"I think it is fair for them to ask me what does this mean to me. That ... doesn't mean that they necessarily are trying to change it," he said.

Reichelderfer also said he worked to find out where some incumbents, but not all of them, lived on some of the maps.

Both House and Senate leaders frequently pointed out during the redistricting battle that they didn't know where lawmakers lived. Senate Reapportionment Chairman Don Gaetz, a Niceville Republican who is now Senate president, also touted the fact that the software the Senate used to craft maps didn't include political performance data.

Reichelderfer also said he didn't tell legislators about the congressional maps' performance and didn't recall discussing that with staff members.

Reichelderfer brushed back the idea that there was something necessarily improper with staff members talking to political consultants about aspects of the redistricting process that didn't touch directly on where to draw district lines — for example, which geographic features to use as guidelines under the Fair District amendments.

"I don't believe that anybody thinks whether or not you use a road or a county or a city boundary would somehow favor, disfavor, or I mean it is kind, it is kind of, I mean ... it is kind of eight, seven months prior to maps being drawn," he said of a December 2010 meeting.

And so, for example, Reichelderfer said he didn't have conversations with Alex Kelly, staff director for the House Redistricting Committee, from the time Census data was integrated into map-drawings software until some point after the maps were approved.

But he had conversations with other staffers as maps were beginning to take shape.

On Nov. 27, 2011, Reichelderfer and Pepper emailed back and forth about a congressional map that Pepper provided to Reichelderfer through an online program known as Dropbox.

"Actually, the Webster seat is a bit messed up," Reichelderfer wrote at one point after examining the map.

"Performance or geography," Pepper asked.

According to the attorneys questioning Reichelderfer, no response has been found. The consultant said he didn't remember what problems he had with the map and didn't know why he didn't reply.

Perhaps not surprisingly, officials with the Republican Party of Florida and the Republican National Committee were also intensely interested in the process.

The deposition of Terraferma, who became director of House campaigns for the Republican Party of Florida in January 2011, spotlights conversations he had with officials from the RNC. For example, Terraferma testified that in September 2011, Tom Hofeller — who works on redistricting issues for the RNC — and another man visited Tallahassee to discuss redistricting.

But Terraferma told lawyers for the voting-rights groups during the deposition he didn't remember what specifically they discussed.

"So your memory is just a complete blank as to that discussion with those fellows from Washington?" one of the lawyers asked.

"Yes," Terraferma responded.

In his testimony — which happened in some cases more than a year and a half after the incidents that were discussed — Terraferma repeatedly said he can't remember specifics about meetings and emails.

Terraferma was also asked about a meeting in late October 2011 involving himself, political consultant Rich Heffley and Benjamin Ginsberg, a D.C.-based Republican lawyer who works for Patton Boggs LLP. But Terraferma once again said his memory was shaky.

"We might have spoken about redistricting," he said. "We probably did. I just simply don't recall the specifics of the meeting."

And Terraferma said he didn't remember what he meant when he wrote to Heffley on Aug. 31, 2011: "Some friends with deep pockets want to help on redistricting, need to discuss more with you."

In any case, Terraferma did work on several maps with Heffley.

Some in the process also discussed maps with Terraferma. Terraferma said he talked with Gary Lieffers about the map in Duval County. Lieffers is a lobbyist with long-time ties to Duval County.

"My recollection is that Mr. Lieffers had asked me to take a look at the configuration in Duval County," Terraferma said. "They felt like what was being proposed didn't comply well with Amendment 5."

Terraferma said he drew a new map for Duval County but doesn't remember if he gave it to Lieffers.

Congressmen, too, were getting involved. On Dec. 2, 2011, Terraferma sent maps to former U.S. Rep. David Rivera, a Republican, though he denied the proposals were necessarily meant to help the congressman.

"In fact, my recollection is he specifically said I am not looking to have my House placed in a district,'' Terraferma said. "He just wanted to see if there were other alternatives that could be drawn under Amendment 6 that, you know, that could be looked at."

But Terraferma said he doesn't believe the proposals made their way into the congressional maps approved by the Legislature.

It's unclear whether Rivera, who declined to comment on the record for this article, talked with lawmakers about the maps. According to the depositions, in an email conversation that included a discussion about when the first-draft proposals from the House would be revealed, an aide to Rivera wrote to Terraferma: "I know David touched (base) with Dean and CLC over the weekend."

The latter was an apparent reference to then-state House Majority Leader Carlos Lopez-Cantera, R-Miami.

The testimony could cut both ways in the coming trial. For example, during his deposition, Reichelderfer pointed to emails where consultants seemed to be dissatisfied with a Senate map as proof that they didn't have the kind of influence over those plans that lawyers for the voting-rights organizations allege.

Meanwhile, there is no direct evidence that many of the maps that circulated among the consultants ever made it into the redistricting process. For his part, Terraferma said he didn't know what happened to them.

"And did you ever ask him (Heffley) what are you doing with these maps I am producing for you?" an attorney asked.

"He never told me and I never asked him," Terraferma said.


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