Junk Disclosure: Florida

Today we feature another state that requires stupid and useless campaign finance disclosure. In the last two posts, lengthy and burdensome disclaimer notices were  responsible for the junk disclosure. Today, we take on Florida’s “first dollar” reporting requirements.

Yes, if you contribute a dollar to any Florida candidate, party or PAC, that transaction is reported and filed away with the Florida Department of State Division of Elections. Where they can be searched via internet.  Back to 1996.

What’s more, Florida search results provide the donor’s address as well as name, date of contribution and amount. By contrast, the FEC’s database strips this information from the query results (although you can access with a second click the image of the filed report, which does show the contributor’s address). Run a query using your own last name, just for fun. In the 2010 General election cycle, 130 “Hayward” donors made contributions—none of them named “Allison” but that’s just because I’m lucky. The point is the potential for innocent (or not so innocent) confusion is tremendous, but the useful information imparted to the public is minimal. Is the Florida Legislature unaware of the ease with which the name and address information can be used in commercial or fraudulent pursuits? More fundamentally, who on this earth needs to know about the various Floridian Hayward’s who gave $5? In 1996? It’s an invasion that serve no public purpose.

Florida’s first-dollar disclosure requirements extend to disbursements as well. So even petty reimbursements for postage and incldentals are dutifully reported to the dollar by Florida filers. The bookkeeping effort required to comply with this imposition is, as far as I am aware, beyond that imposed by any other agency.  Compliance costs just drive up the cost of running for office, with bad effects for accountability and competitiveness.  And, as before, the information is not useful  to the public. 

First dollar disclosure sounds like a great thing, and some conservatives have been heard from time to time touting it as an alternative to limits and prohibitions. But it isn’t.  It’s expensive, confusing, and useless. It’s junk disclosure.

The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.