Saturday Evening Post: Big Money Putting Out Big Lies on Big Amendment

The lobbying and development crowd is lining up in a big way to oppose an amendment aimed at giving voters a direct say on what does -- and doesn't -- get built in their communities.

It's Hometown Democracy's Amendment 4, and if passed by voters in November, it will require a referendum vote on all comprehensive land-use plans. Basically, it would put a lot of power into the hands of voters and take it away from lobbyists and elected officials.

And boy, do the politicians, lobbyists, contractors, and other special interests hate it. Right now, we can put a dollar value on their distaste for the amendment: $7 million.

That's how much money business interests have pumped into a statewide PAC dedicated to killing the amendment called "Citizens for Lower Tax and a Stronger Economy." Numerous big Broward County players have contributed their share, including the Broward Workshop, a group of elite businesses whose own PAC has contributed a whopping $260,000 (more on the local money after the jump). The "Vote No on 4" campaign has already begun in earnest with what it is calling its "Industry Mobilization Plan."

The plan, which was forwarded to me, encourages businesses to identify employees who vote and "encourage" them to register on an anti-Amendment 4 website. Then it's time for the persuasion phase: "Forward campaign e-mails to voters -- employees, sub-contractors and vendors. Encourage them to share these e-mails with their friends and family."

From there, it's on to "viral conversations" on the web. "Encourage your employees/members to join the social media conversation... and encourage advocates to share information virally."

The anti-4 crowd has already put out some terribly misleading information to bolster its cause. It recently put out some "scare tactics" regarding ballots and it is claiming that "leading economists report that Amendment 4 will shrink Florida's economy by more than $34 billion annually, take $12 billion out of the pockets of working Floridians, and cost our state nearly 270,000 jobs."

Those figures are actually based on a single study done by a hired-gun firm out of Coral Gables called the Washington Economics Group, and it was paid for by the Florida Chamber of Commerce, a staunch opponent of Amendment 4 that has contributed $565,000 to the anti-4 PAC. That fact alone destroys any credibility of the study, but two University of Central Florida economists reviewed the study and concluded "without reservation that none of the WEG Report impact forecasts contain any useful information, and their findings should be entirely disregarded as irredeemably flawed."

So it was baseless propaganda, big-money hocus-pocus. Not surprisingly, they've also got our favorite mercenary economist, Hank Fishkind, proselytizing against Amendment 4 as well.

There are some valid reasons to oppose Amendment 4, but these kinds of dirty tricks only indicate all the more why voters shouldn't the trust the development-at-any-cost interests or the politicians they so often control and vote for the amendment.

Inside, see a list of some local big-money contributors to the anti-Amendment 4 committee. Some of the names might surprise you; most won't.

Here's a list of this some of the recent contributors to the Broward Workshop, which just sank an $260,000 into the fight against Amendment 4:

-- Autonation, $50,000

-- Balfour Beatty Construction, $5,000

-- BankAtlantic, $5,000

-- Berger Singerman Attorneys at Law, $5,000

-- Broward Workshop, $100,000

-- Cartaya & Associates, $1,000

-- Dolphin Properties & Investments, $2,500

-- Greenberg Traurig, $2,500

-- Huizenga Holdings, $5,000

-- James Cummings, $5,000

-- JM Family Enterprises, $50,000

-- Alan Levy, $1,000

-- Liberty Property Ltd. Partnership (Pennsylvania), $20,000

-- Marrinson Group, $5,000

-- John Milledge, $500

-- Procacci Commercial Realty, $5,000

-- Rick Case Enterprises, $5,000

-- Ron Book, $2,500

-- Shutts & Bowen (George Platt), $2,500

-- Stiles Corporation, $5,000

-- The Amera Corporation, $1,000

-- Tripp Scott, $5,000

Now here's a quick sample of some of the more interesting contributors to the Citizens for Lower Taxes and a Stronger Economy PAC, including major donors and some local players:

-- CVS Pharmacy, $100,000

-- Dennis Mele, Ruden McClosky, $1,000

-- Dolphin Mall Associates, $4,167

-- Equity One, $10,000

-- Evans Properties, $40,000

-- First Florida Building Corp., $15,450

-- Florida Association of Realtors, $1.75 million

-- Florida Chamber of Commerce, $565,000

-- Florida Power & Light, $200,000

-- GL Homes of Florida, $50,000

-- K. Hovnian Companies, $96,000

-- KB Homes, $255,000

-- Konover South Development Corp., $1,000

-- Lennar Homes, $367,000

-- Macy's Corporate Services, $50,000

-- Mosaic Fertilizer LLC, $30,000

-- The Ryland Corporation, $135,000

-- Toll Brothers, $43,000

-- Waste Management, $50,500

-- WCI Communities, $5,000

-- Broward Workshop PAC, $260,000

What an incredible free-for-all. You can only imagine what Scott Rothstein might have contributed had his Ponzi scheme survived another year. 


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