“Grass roots” campaign turns out to be all Astroturf

We told you on Tuesday about an effort to amend Florida’s constitution to include rights for pregnant pigs, and how animal-rights activists had raised over $1 million dollars for the signature-gathering effort (just over 500,000 have been verified as of this morning). For those of you wondering why circulating petitions requires such a deep pocket, an answer comes via a Melbourne, Florida newspaper.

Florida Today reported recently that Floridians for Humane Farms, the political organization officially operating this petition campaign, paid a professional signature-gathering company to do most of the legwork. “So much for grassroots campaigning,” writes Florida Today reporter Paige St. John. She notes that the Florida hog campaign has plenty of funds to pay for signatures, despite its complaint that the 10 cents charged by the Florida Secretary of State’s office to verify the collected signatures “would put an undue burden on its bank accounts.” The Secretary of State waived this charge in January, just after the campaign received a $150,000 donation — its biggest to date — from the animal rights group Farm Sanctuary.

Florida Department of Elections records show that National Voter Outreach, a Nevada company, has already been paid over $196,000 so that animal rights activists don’t have to wear out their non-leather sandals pounding the pavement for support. So far, this “Astroturf” campaign method is the activists’ single largest expense. Also in the top ten is telephone service, which Floridians for Humane Farms is purchasing through Working Assets, a service of the Tides Foundation. Small world, isn’t it?

[Editor’s note: in our Tuesday story on this issue, we erred in referring to the Florida campaign as an effort to outlaw “farrowing crates.” The correct term is “gestation crates.” We regret the error.]

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