An appeals court Monday tossed out a constitutional challenge to a 2013 law that allows public officials to put their assets into blind trusts, pointing to the “speculative nature” of the case.
Jim Apthorp, who served as chief of staff to former Gov. Reubin Askew, filed the challenge last year alleging that the blind-trust law violated a constitutional requirement that officials fully disclose their financial interests.
But a three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal found that Apthorp’s case “wholly failed to allege a bona fide, actual, present practical need for a declaration that the qualified blind trust statute is unconstitutional.”
In part, it said Apthorp did not allege any public official or candidate had used a blind trust in the most-recent financial disclosures.
Justice Brad Thomas, however, wrote a concurring opinion that suggested the court has questions about the constitutionality of the blind-trust law.
“Our decision today … should not be read to lend any support for the proposition that the statute at issue ensures ‘full and public disclosure,’ as mandated by … the Florida Constitution,” Thomas wrote.
With Askew leading the effort, Florida voters in 1976 overwhelmingly approved the Sunshine Amendment, which included requiring public officials to disclose their financial interests.
But supporters of the 2013 law say blind trusts prevent conflicts of interest between officials’ public duties and financial interests. A blind trust gives someone else the ability to manage investments without a politician’s knowledge, but it doesn’t require the same level of detail about officials’ holdings as is required by typical financial-disclosure forms.
Gov. Rick Scott used a blind trust during his first term in office but ended it last year and listed his financial assets as he qualified for re-election. That disclosure showed Scott’s net worth at $132.7 million. After the disclosure, Scott put his assets in a new blind trust.
Original article here.