Florida's Think Tanks - Newcomers
Florida has a cadre of think tanks determined to help shape the state's policies.
2012 Revenue: $792,000
Key Personnel: President and co-founder Eli Lehrer, Florida director Christian Cámara and senior fellow Don Brown, an insurance agent from DeFuniak Springs. Lehrer is former vice president of the Heartland Institute and a former speechwriter for U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. Cámara, a former Florida House aide and GOP field coordinator, previously held the same position with the Heartland Institute’s Center on Finance, Insurance and Real Estate. Brown, a former Republican member of the Florida House, is a lobbyist.
Funding Sources: Corporations and foundations, with a small portion from individuals
About: The Washington, D.C.-based free-market think tank focuses primarily on insurance and regulatory issues but also weighs in on school choice, the environment and other free-market issues. The Florida branch was launched last year by a group of staffers of the Chicago-based Heartland Institute who split from that group. The group focuses on issues related to reforming the state-run insurer Citizens, the CAT fund and the overall regulatory environment. A feather in the group’s cap this past legislative session was passage of a provision that will bar Citizens from insuring new construction along the coast.
2012 Revenue: $15,950
Key Personnel: Husband and wife Dan and Nicole Krassner, and Mike Dema, now assistant city attorney for St. Petersburg. Dan Krassner, the group’s executive director, served as chief strategy and communications officer for the Florida Chamber of Commerce and was vice president of communications for Florida TaxWatch. Nicole Krassner is creative director. Ben Wilcox, former executive director of Common Cause Florida, is the group’s research director.
Funding Sources: Grants and grassroots contributions. The group has doubled its revenue for 2013. Donors are disclosed on its website.
About: Integrity Florida promotes ethics and transparency in government. Since it launched January 2012, the group has issued 10 reports. The ethics bill that passed last session contained several recommendations from those reports, including calls for greater public access to officials’ financial disclosure reports. In February, the group issued a report taking aim at the state’s economic development agency, Enterprise Florida, for its “pay-to-play” contracting practices, but the study caused a schism among the group’s board of directors, some of whom objected to the fact that the report was funded in part by Americans for Prosperity, run by the politically active billionaire Koch brothers. Krassner says independence is central to his group’s brand and approach and that he’s “proud of our diverse funders, board of directors and focus on policy, rather than politics.”