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Critics attack approved rebate for political contributors

$25 rebate for contributions made to city candidates approved 2 years ago

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Two years after voters in the state capitol approved a rebate for political contributors, conservative critics are trying to kill the idea.

Roughly 800 people have contributed to local races in the capitol during this election cycle. If all of them applied for rebates, the cost would be about $20,000, which was the original cost estimate for the program.

Two of three voters voted to limit the size of political contributions in 2014. They also approved a $25 rebate for contributions made to city candidates.

The rebate was hailed as a way to get more small contributors involved while getting big money out of politics. But as the political season shifts into high gear, conservative critics are crying foul.

"It’s the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard of," said Barney Bishop, of the Network of Entrepreneurs and Business Advocates. "And to use public tax dollars to do that? There’s not another city in the country that did it."

City commissioner Gil Ziffer wants a do-over vote in November.

"I don’t think a lot of people knew they were voting for this," Ziffer said. "The rationale that’s been given to me is it gets more people running for office. It gets an opportunity for more people to give money, and I’m okay with all of that. I just think the citizens need a chance to vote on it all by itself. Up or down."

But were people fooled? The ballot summery clearly states that it created a campaign finance system.

Critics point to only three people applying for the refund as a sign that it’s not working.

"You don’t find it automatically," said Joe Cain, a political contributor. "You have to Google and then you get a link to it. So it's not so easy to find. That may be part of the problem."

A Harvard professor called the experiment "grand" and said if it worked, it could be expanded to the rest of Florida and the nation.