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Wexler Legal Fees Linked to Residency

Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.) paid more than $6,700 in legal fees in the first quarter of this year, funds spent in part to address questions raised during the 2008 election cycle about his Florida residency status.

According to Federal Election Commission reports, Wexler doled out a single payment of nearly $3,700 to the Florida-based law firm Berger Singerman and $2,200 to the Washington, D.C., office of McDermott Will & Emery.

In addition, Wexler paid the Miami office of law firm Hunton & Williams about $900 in the first quarter of this year. The same firm received nearly $9,990 from the campaign between August and November 2008.

An aide to Wexler said the three law firms were hired to address both a series of amendments to the Florida lawmaker’s FEC filings as well as “guidance that we sought on the Congressman’s residency.—

“We didn’t hire particular people for particular things,— said Eric Johnson, Wexler’s chief of staff, adding that the campaign sought input on multiple topics from each law firm. Johnson is also a paid consultant to Wexler’s campaign.

In the months before the November elections, Wexler faced questions over his residency status in the state after a Republican challenger criticized the House lawmaker for failing to rent or own a dwelling in Florida, although Wexler owns a Maryland home.

Although Wexler did register to vote in his district using his in-laws’ address, that home is located in a community that prohibits children, including Wexler’s own. He subsequently rented an apartment in the Boca Raton area.

Around the same time, in late July 2008, Wexler’s campaign amended 25 FEC reports dating back to 2001.

According to Wexler’s office, those reports were amended to correct the name of a company that had been misidentified.

The Palm Beach Post reported in October that those corrections were intended to identify investment firms that have managed funds for the campaign, an unusual but legal use of contributions.

Prior to the amendments, the FEC forms show receipts credited to Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Newbridge Securities. The Palm Beach Post reported that investor Roy Amico handled the campaign’s account and that amended reports reflect his subsequent employers, including WestPark Capital in Los Angeles and Capital Gains Real Estate Consultants in West Palm Beach, Fla.

In late July 2008, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a cease-and-desist order against Newbridge Securities for violating securities regulations. The order also names the firms executives, including Guy Amico, Roy Amico’s brother. Roy Amico is not named in the filing.

Johnson said he is not aware of any FEC or House ethics panel investigation of Wexler or his campaign.

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