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May 18, 2007

Special Interest Group Paid Signature Gatherers

Attached to the opposition to the Hometown Democracy idea, the Florida Chamber of Commerce has launched a public awareness campaign about paid petition signature gathers from outside the state.  While the the ability to amend the Florida Constitution provides for an unmatched opportunity for the people to direct government, it also provides an opportunity of out-of-state interests to push policy in Florida as a testing ground and for others to profit from the signature gathering process.  It is in these situations where the amendments become more about special interest groups, out of state interest groups none-the-less. 

The point of all this?  Don't sign a petition unless you have taken to time to research what the amendment would actually do.  Sadly, the statement that with two million dollars, you can buy an amendment to the Florida Constitution is true.  That needs to change.

The Chamber has put together a brief PSA with a great summary of what is going on and how to respond.

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The Orlando Sentinel's Taking Names blog (link above and below) has a link to a Penn & Teller video that shows people signing a petition to ban dihydrogenmonoxide (water.) It's both funny and sad.

Penn & Teller video

It's only a dumb ballot initiative if you don't mind seeing the entire state covered in asphalt.
Property rights are not just designed for the guys who want to build shopping malls or subdivisions.
It makes perfect sense to let the people who will be directly affected by growth to decide whether or not they want it by putting the issue to a vote.

So if I want a simple land use change to build a mother-in-law suite on my property, I will have to conduct a county-wide political campaign to convince a low turnout electorate to approve it, instead of gaining the consensus of my immediate neighbors and having the change approved by the county commission, who, by the way, are elected by the people. HTD just adds more red tape to government. It will also reduce affordable housing. I guess that doesn't matter to Lesley Blackner, the millionaire attorney who is funding HTD. She has a million home on the beach already. She didn't seem to mind development when her house was being built on the beach.

You really should tell people that "The Chamber" has since removed that video because it had no connection to the Florida Hometown Democracy initiative and was misleading.

First, I'm not going to tell people that because I've seen nothing to indicate it.

Second, the PSA itself indicates that it is from the Chamber, so the insinuation that they are trying to hide some connection is misplaced.

The PSA is posted on the Florida Chamber home page. But that is irrelevant. The PSA is about the dirty tricks used by professional signature companies, not about the Hometown movement. Of course, the Hometown movement is paying a ton a money to a California signature company, but that was not mentioned in the blog post.

What is wrong with paying someone to gather signatures?
How is that different from special interest groups paying for lobbyists to push their cause in Tallahassee?
I have to chuckle at the "The Chamber's" accusation that those who support the Florida Hometown Democracy initiative are a "special interest group."
The chamber of commerce has to be one of the largest special interest groups in the entire state.
It makes sense that they would be supporting the position of builders and developers and contractors.

Wrong. Lobbyists are required to disclose for whom they work and how much they are paid. When professional signature gatherers collect signatures, they pass themselves off as volunteer advocates for a particular cause. You may not have a problem paying a California firm but most voters do once they learn about the fact that the signature gatherers are paid.

I think a lot of voters would have a problem with the way lobbyists influence our policy makers' decisions if they were aware of just how much pull they had and methods used to excersize it.
People who are approached by anyone who wants them to sign a petition have the right to walk away, they have a right to refuse to sign.
What REAL difference does it make who is asking for the signature as long as the petition that is being signed is acurately presented by the solicitor?

Because when a professional signature gatherer is paid per signature, as many of them are, it opens the door to deception, harassment and even fraud.

When high-powered special interest groups like the Cahmber of Commerce, the NRA, the Florida Homebuilders Association, etc., pay big bucks to lobbyists it opens the door to deception, harassment and even fraud - and that goes on every day of the week.
In my county,the builder's association has a standing meeting every month with our planning staff - do you think if the average citizens group called and asked for the same arraingement that it would be accomadted?
The development industry already has an unfair advantage in influencing planning decisions and recommendations that are presented to elected officials for a vote.
It's time to start leveling the playing field because quality of life isn't a game.

This video suggests that canvassers are getting rich from their work - when, in fact, they are paid very, very badly and most of them do it because they believe in an organization.

I suggest checking out non-profit job listing on sites such as Idealist.org to see how little they make. A lead canvasser with several years experience will be lucky to make $2500 a month (30k a year) for a short term gig.

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