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Ballot drive group to peddle signers' names

Signers of a petition limiting tax increases, be warned: Brace yourselves for letters and phone calls from groups asking for money.

The group that collected more than 430,000 signatures supporting a constitutional amendment requiring voter approval of new taxes is trying to sell those names and addresses to direct-mail groups and other organizations.

"I have asked a broker to look into it," said David Biddulph, founder of the Tax Cap Committee, who said he hopes to sell the lists his group gathered for between 6 and 8 cents per name.

Although the practice is legal, signers of Biddulph's petitions were not pleased when they learned of his plans.

"I wanted them to get on the ballot," said William Long, 43, of Tallahassee.

"I didn't know that it would be used for something else."

Shirley Broen, 73, also of Tallahassee, said she wouldn't have signed the petitions.

"Not if I knew they were going to sell my name to every Tom, Dick and Harry that came along. I've got enough junk mail coming here already."

State Division of Elections Director David Rancourt said the lists, once turned in to the local supervisors of elections, are public records, available to anyone who asks.

Biddulph, who runs the group from his home in New Smyrna Beach, said professional mailing-list companies routinely compile voting registration rolls and petitions to create their data bases.

He said he wants the money for his committee, which plans an expensive advertising campaign this autumn supporting the ballot initiative to make state tax increases subject to two-thirds approval of the electorate.

Selling 430,000 names at 6 cents per name would reap $25,800 each time; at 8 cents per name, $34,400.

"Anybody could do it," Biddulph said. "You could go in and go down to the Division of Elections and get the lists."

He advised people who didn't want fund-raising solicitations to avoid making political contributions and avoid signing ballot-initiative petitions.

Organizers of other petition drives, however, said that Biddulph's fund-raising plan is a bad idea.

They worry that residents will be reluctant to sign petitions if they think their names and addresses will be sold.

Robert Ross, head of the Florida 187 Committee, said he considered and quickly dismissed the notion of selling the few thousand names his group has collected so far.

"We weren't sure they would appreciate finding their names on a mailing list or a series of mailing lists."

Asking for permission to distribute names was similarly out of the question.

"I get the feeling that would lower the level of response we get," said Ross, whose group wants to cut off social services and public education for illegal immigrants.

Biddulph, 53, organized the Tax Cap Committee to stop an income tax in Florida.

The group quickly won millions of dollars of backing from the sugar industry as a way to thwart the Save Our Everglades petition drive that is seeking to impose a penny-per-pound tax on sugar.

So far, the Tax Cap Committee's proposal is the only petition-backed initiative on the November ballot, although the three Save Our Everglades petitions go to the Supreme Court for review Aug. 29.

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