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Hired guns help shape redistricting

Published Sep. 3, 2005

With political careers on the line, several Florida members of Congress spent thousands on Tallahassee lobbyists as state legislators drew new congressional districts.

"It was money well spent," said U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Bartow, whose district continues to include the Central Florida ranchland that serves as his political base.

Putnam and others _ U.S. Reps. Ric Keller, Dave Weldon and Clay Shaw _ together spent close to $100,000 on lobbyists who watched and worked with lawmakers crafting the state's 25 congressional districts.

Some decry such spending, saying it gives congressional incumbents an unfair advantage.

"It's such a matter of survival for these members of Congress that they're going to find any way they can to get what they want," said Steven Weiss, a spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington. "It's symptomatic of what's wrong with too much money in politics."

For Keller, R-Orlando, and Weldon, R-Melbourne, the need to hire lobbyists was influenced by the political aspirations of House Speaker Tom Feeney, R-Oviedo, whose tailor-made district impinges on theirs.

Yet in redistricting, Keller and Weldon's boundaries underwent relatively modest political makeovers.

The money spent by Shaw, an 11-term Fort Lauderdale Republican, may have helped persuade state lawmakers to move his redrawn district more into Republican-rich Palm Beach County.