James L. Rosica (@jlrosicaTBO) in Tallahassee
The Florida Supreme Court has ordered Secretary of State Ken Detzner to respond to a complaint filed Wednesday that politicians’ use of blind trusts violates the state constitution.
The court released its order Thursday. Detzner’s official duties include overseeing elections and campaign finance.
Detzner has until noon next Monday to file a response, after which Jim Apthorp can respond by noon that Wednesday. Apthorp, former chief of staff to the late Gov. Reubin Askew, filed the complaint.
The court asks Detzner to weigh in on whether the court can grant relief, whether the matter should first be referred to a trial judge in Tallahassee and whether the complaint has any merit.
Blind trusts shield those who receive income from them from knowing where the money is coming from, most often to avoid conflicts of interest.
Apthorp says they are unconstitutional, citing the “Sunshine Amendment.” That was an initiative led by Askew, who served as Democratic governor 1971-79 and died in March.
It calls for elected officials and candidates to “file full and public disclosure of their financial interests.”
Critics, including legislative leaders, called the suit “a cynically-timed political ploy designed and timed to affect the outcome of this year’s elections.”
Republican Gov. Rick Scott, a former for-profit hospital chain CEO who’s worth more than $80 million, has a blind trust. He faces re-election in November. His spokesman said the governor “will always operate in full compliance with the law.”