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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Is the secret Romney recording legal?



Unlike most states, it's generally illegal in Florida to record someone without his or her consent.

So where does that leave the secretly recorded videos of Mitt Romney candidly addressing donors at a West Boca Raton residence published by Mother Jones?

"In general, Florida law prohibits surreptitiously tape-recording conversations," said attorney Alison Steele, who represents the Tampa Bay Times on 1st Amendment issues. "But for that to apply, the speaker must have the expectation that the communication is not being recorded.''

Should Romney have had that expectation at a private event with donors?

"The question I think the law would ask is, is it reasonable for a candidate for president to stand at a podium in front of a roomful of people and expect that no one would record anything he said?" she said. "I would think that an unreasonable expectation."

The U.S. Supreme Court has clearly supported the news media's right to publish secretly recorded remarks of public concern when received from a third party, she said.

"I would deem a presidential candidate's remarks revealing how he views his fellow Americans to be of the highest public importance,'' she said.

A spokeswoman for the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office, which has jurisdiction over the home in which the recording took place, did not know if the agency had received complaints about the secret video.

[Last modified: Tuesday, September 18, 2012 5:17pm]


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