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Florida's Think Tanks - Newcomers

R Street Institute - Tallahassee

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.


Integrity Florida - Tallahassee

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.”

Florida Next Foundation - Tampa

2011 Revenue: $416,908

Key Personnel: Alex Sink and Ned Pope. Sink, a former banker who served as CFO from 2007-10, is chairwoman. She is a senior adviser with Tampa-based Hyde Park Capital. As president of Florida Next, Pope runs the day-to-day operations of the group. He served under Sink as director of external affairs when she was CFO.

Funding Sources: Corporate donors who don’t object are listed on the group’s website — including C1 Bank, Knight Marketing, Florida Blue Foundation, Force Works and Ernst & Young. If requested, it also provides financial statements showing how a donor’s money has been spent.

About: Sink started the non-partisan think tank in 2011 after she lost her 2010 bid for governor. The group aims to boost Florida’s economy by empowering young professionals, entrepreneurs and small businesses through various programs. The non-partisan organization has been holding brainstorm sessions around the state called Impact Forums, where a mostly under-40 crowd pitches ideas about how to improve their communities.


Project on Accountable Justice - Tallahassee

2012 Revenue: $107,000

Key Personnel: Allison DeFoor and Deborrah Brodsky. DeFoor, a former county and circuit judge, sheriff and Republican nominee for lieutenant governor in 1990 as running mate to Gov. Bob Martinez, is chairman. Brodsky, PAJ director, previously served as director of the Florida TaxWatch Center for Smart Justice and also spent eight years working for the Florida Legislature as an editor for the Journal of the House of Representatives and other publications.

Funding Sources: Foundation “gifts” comprised $75,000 of the group’s total annual revenue. The rest came from individuals.

About: Launched last year, the bipartisan think tank focuses on providing state lawmakers with the data to reform the state’s criminal justice system. PAJ, which is housed at the John Scott Dailey Institute of Government at FSU, is a partnership of FSU, Baylor University, St. Petersburg College’s Institute of Strategic Policy Solutions and the Florida Public Safety Institute at Tallahassee Community College.


Foundation for Government Accountability - Naples

2011 Revenue: $212,194

Key Personnel: Tarren Bragdon, Chris Cinquemani, Christie Herrera and Chris Hudson. Bragdon, president and CEO, ran a similar group in Maine called the Maine Heritage Policy Center. Bragdon served in the Maine Legislature from 1996 to 2000. Cinquemani previously directed communications at the Maine Heritage Policy Center, and Herrera is former director of the Health and Human Services Task Force at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate-funded non-profit with a conservative bent that produces model legislation for state lawmakers. Hudson, a former legislative assistant, directs government relations for the group.

Funding Sources: Bragdon says his group discloses only those donors who want their names made public. In 2011, that short list included Robert Levy, chairman of the CATO Institute, and the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, another free market-oriented think tank. IRS filings show that the State Policy Network provided the group $60,000 in startup funds in 2011. The group has disclosed no donor names for 2012 or 2013.

About: Founded two years ago, the group specializes in health and welfare policy and has been focused on fighting the expansion of Medicaid. FGA is a member of the State Policy Network, a national umbrella organization that oversees a network of conservative state-based policy organization.