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“Rarely do you accept accession so able that wants to abide abaft the scenes,” said Daniel Smith, an elections able and University of Florida professor.

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Tucked abroad in an automated esplanade alfresco northwest Gainesville is a business run by one of Florida’s best affecting agents in GOP politics.

Admitting his growing account of high-profile clients, actuality alleged in a gerrymandering aspersion in 2012 and accepting ties to dozens of political committees that about-face tens of millions of dollars every acclamation cycle, few apperceive the man who has helped accept dozens of lawmakers.

“He is the best-kept abstruse in Alachua County, if not the state,” said Daniel Smith, a political science assistant at the University of Florida. “Rarely do you accept accession so able that wants to abide abaft the scenes.”

Since 1987, Patrick Jay Bainter has steadily congenital Data Targeting from a startup aggregation to a must-have attack aggregation for Republicans, generally accepting victories for candidates at all levels of government, sometimes with the advice of assembly and ambiguous tactics.

The aggregation has formed on hundreds of campaigns over the aftermost 30 years, including contest in at atomic 12 added states.

But Florida is the company’s aliment and butter, accepting done assignment for at atomic 15 of the 23 sitting Republican accompaniment senators and seven of Florida’s 14 sitting Republican U.S. House members. Three added accompaniment Senate candidates that Data Targeting did assignment for during the 2018 acclamation aeon weren’t elected.

“They’re acquainted into the Florida Senate,” said Tallahassee advocate Mark Herron. “They’ve been basic to their success for a cardinal of acclamation cycles.”

Some of Data Targeting’s added audience accept included Governor-elect Ron DeSantis, U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, above U.S. Rep. David Jolly, and above Senate presidents Joe Negron and Mike Haridopolos.

Republicans are not abandoned in alive donations among ephemeral corporations and application political committees to blind donors, but they are cartoon in added money and application it in added adult means than Democrats accept managed, according to assembly who batten with The Sun. It appears to be working. The GOP has bedeviled statewide politics for the aftermost two decades, admitting Democrats accepting the advantage in the cardinal of registered voters in Florida.

While reviewing hundreds of pages of abstracts apropos to Bainter’s political dealings, The Sun found:

• Bainter has formed carefully with the aftermost three Republican accompaniment Senate presidents, forth with dozens of added sitting lawmakers.

• His aggregation has formed on hundreds of campaigns.

• Added than 60 political committees and groups abutting to Bainter carry money to accession candidates’ affairs of winning, while creating a extraordinary bewilderment of attack funds that accomplish it near-impossible to trace the antecedent donor.

• His companies becoming added than $13 actor during the 2018 acclamation cycle, the best he has becoming for one cycle, according to attack filings.

Bainter, 59, hasn’t responded to abundant requests in the accomplished few months to allege with The Sun about his business. His secretary said he wasn’t interested.

His friend, William “Stafford” Jones, the above longtime administrator of the Alachua County Republican Executive Committee, was additionally alive in the 2012 gerrymandering aspersion breadth Bainter’s aggregation was begin to accept illegally fatigued commune curve to favor Republicans.

Jones operates 55 political committees in Florida and several added nonprofit organizations, some of which accept ties to Data Targeting. He, too, has beneath to acknowledgment questions about some of their political work.

Accompaniment Republican and Democratic attack law experts with absolute adeptness of Data Targeting’s assignment say Bainter has no Democratic counterpart.

In Alachua County, association may not be acclimatized with Data Targeting or Bainter, but they’ve acceptable apparent their work.

The aggregation was an basic allotment of Sen. Keith Perry’s arguable re-election attack through research, consulting, polling and mailers paid for by groups run by Jones and the Florida Republican Senatorial Attack Committee, or FRSCC, headed by Senate President Bill Galvano.

Herron, who works for the Florida Democratic Affair and chairs the party’s analogue to the FRSCC, represented Perry’s opponent, Democrat Kayser Enneking.

Perry defeated Enneking by 2,000 votes on Nov. 6. That’s abundantly because Charles Goston, a constant Democrat, additionally ran as an absolute and becoming 4,300 votes. Goston’s attack was abundantly adjourned by Republicans with ties to Perry, filings show.

Some doubtable Bainter and Jones, who were heavily complex in Perry’s campaign, orchestrated Goston’s attack funding. Goston has said he didn’t apperceive or affliction breadth the money came from.

The aphotic money that caked in is about untraceable. But Goston’s PAC acclimated the aforementioned coffer annex as at atomic three added arguable PACs — Protect Venice, Amusing Justice and Moms Allege Out — all of which advance aback to Jones.

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“Pat Bainter has been an aboriginal innovator in efforts to avoid what on the apparent arise to be akin attack accounts laws,” Smith said. “This has been activity on for decades.”

The man

Best bodies couldn’t aces Bainter out of a crowd. He looks like your boilerplate Joe.

He’s a almost fit, white man with abbreviate ablaze amber bristles and sports a abbreviate gray and amber beard.

He came to Alachua County in 1986 from Columbia County, a year afore he founded Data Targeting. He is a registered Republican, according to his aborigine registration. He’s the son of above Florida House Rep. Stanley “Stan” E. Bainter, R-Eustis, who served from 1986 through 2000. Stan Bainter, a Korean War veteran, died Dec. 9 at age 87.

In 1987, Bainter becoming a zoology amount from the University of Florida. He was issued a bartering pilot authorization in 2007 and is a certified flight instructor, according to Federal Aviation Administration records. He plays Ultimate Frisbee and competes in aged tractor-pulling contests about the state, according to his aggregation website.

Bainter has been affiliated to Linda Bainter for added than 30 years. She is listed as an administrator for Data Targeting in accompaniment business filings. The brace accept two children, one of whom additionally works with the aggregation as a programmer.

According to acreage records, Bainter lives in the unincorporated breadth of Alachua County amid Tioga and Alachua, a 10-minute drive arctic of the company’s headquarters.

Bainter aboriginal got complex in backroom in 1986 aback he managed his father’s campaign. He again bound accustomed himself by alive on hundreds of added campaigns and bedfast on the Republican National Committee and the Republican Affair of Florida, now a common applicant of Data Targeting.

Seldom does he accord interviews to account organizations. He has developed acclimatized to blockage beneath the radar, acceptance his audience — for bigger or worse — to absorb up the attack spotlight.

“I’ve never been acceptable with actualization in public, I accept a boxy time with crowds, and the attributes of the aggregation affectionate of reflects that,” Bainter told the Naples Daily Account in 2014.

Smith, the UF professor, said Bainter’s shy abode has alone bolstered his career through the years.

“I anticipate that’s one of the added (positive) attributes of Bainter, is that he has consistently backward out of the limelight,” Smith said. “That’s a attenuate trait, and he’s become actual affluent because of it.”

The company

Anniversary year, Bainter’s aggregation becomes added successful. It opened a additional appointment in Jacksonville in 2014, alleged Data Targeting Research. The appointment has additionally managed to accumulate a low contour admitting its growing acquirement and account of clients. 

Bainter’s added affiliated company, Orra Cardinal Guidance Systems (SGS), does agnate assignment out of the headquarters, amid at 3515 NW 98th St. in Gainesville.

During the 2018 acclamation cycle, Data Targeting was paid added than $8 actor from a host of audience that accommodate candidates, PACs and affair affiliated organizations, according to accompaniment and federal attack filings. SGS brought in accession $6 actor during that time.

It was anniversary company’s best acknowledged acclamation cycle, financially speaking.

During the 2014 races, Data Targeting brought about a third of that — $5.3 actor — and SGS did little assignment for candidates. Those abstracts added in 2016 aback Data Targeting brought in about $7.3 actor and SGS anchored accession $1.3 million.

According to its website, Data Targeting offers a ambit of casework and strategies that accomplish it a one-stop boutique for those gluttonous office. The aggregation provides aborigine assembly projections, aborigine demographics, polling, action research, dossiers, agenda ads, robocalls and mailers, amid added services.

The armpit says the aggregation pioneered “data-centric campaigning” and that it can advance a cardinal plan “based absolutely on what it will booty to win.”

During Perry’s attack run, The Sun fact-checked several of the senator’s ads and Data Targeting-produced mailers, award that several of their claims were false. According to Data Targeting’s website, voters about browse mailers for beneath than 6 seconds, so the aggregation creates attack mailers that get “directly into the minds” of voters to accomplish “an appulse that lasts.”

Bounded Democrats and Republicans accept doubtable that mysteriously adjourned mailers that attacked Enneking during the Senate Commune 8 primary were planned by Bainter, admitting his name hasn’t been anon angry to those efforts.

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Jones’, however, was.

Perry has said he didn’t apperceive if GOP agents were abaft some of the abrogating mailers, but conceded they could accept been. He did not acknowledgment voicemails for this story.

The money

Bainter acclimated to dabble with political committees, but that accomplishment is abundantly headed by his longtime acquaintance William Jones, bigger accustomed by his average name, Stafford.

Jones, 50, is the above administrator of the Alachua County Republican Executive Committee. He has denied that he works carefully with Bainter but says they accept beyond paths aback alive for the aforementioned candidates, which is absolutely often.

He runs a computer consulting aggregation alleged Data Systems. It is additionally amid in the unincorporated breadth of Alachua County northwest of Gainesville, about a four-minute drive from Data Targeting.

Jones alive 55 alive political committees in Florida, but has bankrupt added than 30 others. During the 2018 elections, he was paid $197,000 for managing them, according to accompaniment attack filings.

He additionally has at atomic three alive federal PACs and several 501(c)(4)-registered organizations that accept been heavily acclimated for political purposes. The 501(c)(4) appellation is from federal tax law, anecdotic tax-exempt, nonprofit organizations. Jones’ best contempo IRS forms filed for the nonprofits are from 2016.

By definition, the Internal Acquirement Service states that 501(c)(4) organizations charge alone assignment to accommodate amusing welfare. Those groups can absorb some money on politics, but can’t absorb added than bisected of their money on attack expenses. It additionally charge abide forms to the IRS to appearance breadth the money came from. If bent in violation, an alignment could lose its tax-exempt status, admitting annihilation restricts a actuality from aperture up a new 501(c)(4).

One tax-exempt accumulation run by Jones, the Florida Consumer Awareness Fund, dumped $1.2 actor to the FRSCC as a last-ditch accomplishment to accession the affairs of Republican candidates acceptable in bound races. The FRSCC again paid Data Targeting. The Awareness Fund’s donors are hidden, like some of Jones’ added groups.

Herron said abounding are generally beneath the consequence that they can set up a 501(c)(4) as a agent to armamentarium PACs afterwards defective to acknowledge donors. However, he says, that’s not the case beneath Florida law.

Adav Noti, a chief administrator and advocate with the Attack Acknowledged Center in Washington, D.C., and above advocate for the Federal Elections Commission, said attack accounts laws are set up to anticipate bodies from ambuscade abaft such tax-exempt organizations.

Almost all of Jones’ political groups advance aback to a alert Tallahassee office, at 115 E. Esplanade Ave., breadth several added businesses allotment amplitude and do assignment for the aforementioned candidates represented by Jones and Bainter. He afresh afflicted that abode to a mailbox store. Some of the applicant PACs additionally based at the Esplanade Avenue abode accommodate Friends of Matt Caldwell and Friends of Ashley Moody.

At atomic two added businesses at the abode are the Coates Law Firm and Tidewater Consulting, headed by attorneys Richard Coates and Emmett “Bucky” Mitchell IV. Both are generally paid with PAC money.

Mitchell is a above advocate for the Department of Accompaniment and Division of Elections. He’s angry to 55 alive political committees, some of which are headed by Jones.

In 2012, Mitchell was begin to accept engineered the 2000 Florida felons list, which African-American leaders said purged bags of acceptable blacks from aborigine rolls in the accompaniment and helped beat that acclamation to the GOP, according to the Palm Beach Post. He additionally provided the aboriginal abstract of a arguable House bill that belted aboriginal voting and aborigine allotment campaigns that year.

The Sun begin that Jones and Mitchell’s committees over the years accept funneled millions of dollars to one accession and accomplish it carefully difficult to trace or apperceive the accurate advocate of candidates and advertisements, admitting some donors actuality listed in attack reports.

Best of the money confused about — sometimes from untraceable entities — finds its way to Republican candidates, the FRSCC, or Data Targeting, according to attack filings.

Aback “dark money” is acclimated in campaigns, the funds are channeled through nontraditional routes, sometimes illegally, to accomplish it difficult to clue who is abetment groups or candidates.

Noti said the Federal Elections Agency is arise bottomward on the use of carapace organizations and how some secretly armamentarium campaigns, admitting he is borderline what Florida’s acclamation admiral are accomplishing about the problem. The state’s acclamation agency investigates complaints filed by anyone with immediate adeptness of a violation, but doesn’t seek out violations.

“To burrow a antecedent of money in best states is illegal,” Noti said. “If it was at the federal level, it does get prosecuted. Federal law has a specific amends that is a college amends than added types of penalties.”

Some approach acclimated by Jones’ PACs artlessly betrayal acclamation law loopholes, which the Legislature could accept to change. In added cases, PACs and tax-exempt organizations pop up, again close, abrogation little time to act on accessible violations.

In Perry’s Senate Commune 8 race, two anew created, out-of-state corporations gave added than $200,000 to accession lesser-funded candidates’ campaigns as a way to breach votes and advice Perry win re-election.

The PACs that accustomed the money — Friends of Charles Goston and the Liberation Ocala African American Council — shut bottomward about a ages afterwards their creation.

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Herron said application untraceable, carapace organizations to aback candidates through new PACs is a almost new and different tactic at the bounded akin ― and one that exposes accession campaign-law loophole.

“It undermines the purpose of the attack accounts laws,” he said.

Added PACs, Moms Allege Out and Amusing Justice, were run by a Gainesville woman affiliated to Jones and his company, Data Systems. Those PACs helped pay for ads that targeted Sen. Gary Farmer, D-Fort Lauderdale, Venice City Council Member Deborah Anderson, and acclimated the aforementioned business adviser who targeted Enneking. Amusing Justice additionally paid Data Targeting for ads.

The Moms Allege Out, Amusing Justice and Friends of Charles Goston PACs additionally acclimated the aforementioned Coffer of America annex in Tallahassee, amid a mile abroad from Jones’ new mailbox abundance abode for his PACs, which Amusing Justice additionally uses. Both accustomed allotment from anew created organizations based in Washington, D.C., whose allotment sources are cloaked.

Jones has denied captivation with the committees.

Noti said Congress and accompaniment assembly accept the adeptness to change or bigger accomplish attack laws, acquainted that politicians tend to animosity adumbral organizations bustling up and targeting them.

“It’s absolutely an accretion problem,” he said. “… They get blindsided, and they accept no ascendancy over it.”

Some attack violations, like the ones begin in the Senate 8 race, abatement in amid authorities, abrogation it cryptic who would investigate.

The Florida Elections Agency is bedfast by its statewide jurisdiction, while the Federal Elections Agency is anxious with federal elections. Commune 8 Accompaniment Advocate Bill Cervone says his appointment isn’t absorbed in investigating attack accounts violations but said a admirable board could, theoretically, investigate such issues.

The redistricting

Application atramentous approach to get after-effects that favor Republicans is not a new business action for Bainter by any stretch.

In 2012, the Florida Legislature accustomed a cellophane action to draw fair commune curve for Florida’s Congressional and accompaniment Senate members. Assembly of the accessible were accustomed to abide maps for review. Ultimately, the accustomed maps’ commune boundaries advantaged Republicans.

That’s because Bainter and Jones were complex in a gerrymandering aspersion that accustomed them to adumbrate abaft the accessible action while cartoon maps that advantaged their clients, cloister annal show.

Gerrymandering is an actionable action of manipulating commune boundaries so that they favor one political affair over another. The U.S. Supreme Cloister and added accompaniment courts accept disqualified it unconstitutional.

The commune maps anesthetized in 2012 were challenged in a Leon County cloister by the League of Women Voters of Florida.

Cloister annal appearance Bainter and his assembly drew maps, again asked others to abide them to the Legislature. The maps the Legislature accustomed akin those fatigued by Bainter’s company.

Orlando Advocate David King auspiciously argued the case on account of the League of Women Voters, catastrophe a three-year acknowledged action amid the accumulation and Bainter, his company, accompaniment admiral and the Legislature.

According to cloister records, Bainter denied atrocity and said he had no captivation in gerrymandering. His adventure decidedly afflicted as the case abject out, annal show. Aback the cloister ordered him to aftermath hundreds of emails, maps and added documents, Bainter took his case to the Supreme Court, citation Aboriginal Amendment protection.

The Supreme Court, however, eventually affected Bainter to aftermath added than 700 pages of abstracts that showed he was abaft the plan to alter commune maps to Republicans’ benefit.

“… Bainter and added political consultants acted in concert with the Legislature to aftermath alone districts and an all-embracing redistricting map favorable to the Republican Affair and incumbents, in abuse of the Florida Constitution redistricting standards,” an assessment by Florida Supreme Cloister Judge Barbara J. Pariente said.

Afterwards the ruling, the courts had the districts redrawn advanced of the 2016 election. The courts accustomed at atomic 39 redrawn accompaniment Senate districts, in accession to several House districts, King said.

No one was criminally answerable in the case, admitting Bainter and his approach were advance into the accessible spotlight for the aboriginal time in his career.

Aback asked by the Naples Daily Account in 2014 about his captivation in the gerrymandering case, Bainter responded: “So what?

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