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InsiderOnline Blog: October 2008

Florida Cracks Down on Informed Voting

The whole idea of campaign finance laws is suspect as an infringement on constitutionally protected activity: engaging in speech about political issues. Florida, however, deserves special recognition for new laws in force this year. Writing in the Orlando Sentinel today, Kristina Rassmussen of the National Taxpayers Union reports that in order to communicate about ballot measures, nonprofits must now turn over to the state details about their donors. Consequently, says Rassmussen, the National Taxpayers Union has decided to exclude information about Florida ballot measures from its nationwide taxpayers’ ballot guide.

As the nation’s largest and oldest taxpayer group, we have more than 362,000 members nationwide. More than 24,000 are in Florida. If it took just three minutes to look up each NTU supporter and record his or her name, address, occupation, contribution amount and date on an official form, I would spend 754 days nonstop – more than two years – to fill out all the required paperwork.

Other problems pop up. We must disclose a person’s occupation if his or her donation is more than $100, yet we do not request occupation information from our donors.

Furthermore, there’s no minimum threshold for reporting. As our mail-room staff will tell you, they regularly receive donations of a few dollars – even coins – from people who can’t afford much but still want to help the taxpayer cause.

We also received 1,165 anonymous contributions in 2006. How do we fill out a form for them?

The burden of compliance isn’t the only problem. Rassmussen says NTU thinks its donors deserve privacy, too.

Note that NTU’s publication doesn’t attempt to tell voters how to vote. It merely provides information about how taxpayers would be affected by each measure. Presumably a newspaper reporting exactly the same information would not be subject to these rules. If that’s true, then perhaps the Orlando Sentinel could do Floridians a public service by taking the information NTU has already prepared but not yet published and penning their own article about Florida’s ballot measures.

NTU, with the assistance of the Institute for Justice, has filed a lawsuit in federal court arguing that Florida’s law is an unconstitutional abridgement of its First Amendment rights.

Posted on 10/14/08 06:02 PM by Alex Adrianson

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