Follow the money: Pols try to undermine your vote

My question seemed simple enough: Whose money was it?

Sure, I knew the names of the politicians who opposed the fair-districting amendments, which we overwhelmingly approved at the polls earlier this month.

I knew that Dean Cannon and Mike Haridopolos had fought them before the elections — seeking to cling to rules that basically allowed legislators to customize district lines for themselves and their buddies.

And I knew that U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown and Mario Diaz-Balart had filed a lawsuit, trying to block our votes from counting.

Still, I wanted to know specifically who was funding the lawsuit, paying the court costs and paying the lawyers' bills.

Voters deserve to know who's trying to overturn their will.

As it turns out, getting the answer wasn't that easy … by design.

For starters, Brown, a Democrat, and Diaz-Balart, a Republican, wouldn't say. Brown's chief of staff simply ignored questions. And all Diaz-Balart's spokeswoman would say was "a legal defense fund" without further explanation.

So I began trying to find the records for myself. I mean, this is America, right? Where freedom-of-information reigns!

What I learned is that Congress doesn't allow you to access information about legal funds online, by phone or any way other than personally traveling to Washington and visiting a basement-level records room.

Most of you can't do that.

Fortunately, I have access to a secret weapon: Mark Matthews.

Mark is the Sentinel's Washington reporter. And he was kind enough to go digging through these files that are located hundreds of miles away from the people whose lives they affect.

Mark pulled the papers associated with Brown's and Diaz-Balart's legal funds. Neither was very up-to-date (federal law doesn't require that, either). But they did reveal that each legal fund had received $10,000 from the two groups: The Florida Leadership Alliance and Citizens for Housing and Urban Growth.

OK. But who is that?

I had to search different set of records to answer that question. After doing so, I learned that the people cutting checks to your federal representatives were, in fact, your state representatives.

The Florida Leadership Alliance is run by state Sen. Don Gaetz.

Citizens for Housing and Urban Growth is controlled by a cluster of legislators, including Sen. Mike Bennett of Bradenton and state Rep. Ron Reagan of Sarasota.

In other words: The state lawmakers you elected are helping fund a lawsuit filed by the federal lawmakers you elected … all in attempt to overturn the amendment you approved.

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