Florida Legislation Takes Money from Crime Victims in Order to Help Charitable Bail Project Make Their Political Point of “Ending Cash Bail”
Charitable bail funds, which sprang up a few summers ago on the premise of “bailing out peaceful protestors,” are not as straightforward as you would think. The funds in fact really did not bail out many peaceful protestors at all according to the Washington Post. Since 2020, they have in fact raised $100 million plus nationally at the urging of the Vice President, their tweeting fundraiser in chief, who unfortunately forgot to tell them she ran on a platform of increasing not ending cash bail when she ran for San Francisco District Attorney.
In fact, there is much more to the story. The Bail Project, the national fundraising arm of these various bail funds, argues that what the bail project is doing is protected speech—that the Bail Project exists not to help people, not to bail people out, but, according to legal filings, to end the system of “cash bail.” The State of Indiana last year passed legislation to regulate bail funds and limit what they are able to do, and the Bail Project turned around sued the Indiana Insurance Commissioner in federal court, saying it was unconstitutional that they are regulated due to their First Amendment protected activities, even though for profit bail agents are treated largely as in insurance product in this country. Because states and territories must comply with meeting the requirements of the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1994, the bail funds escape those requirements entirely by saying they are speech and not a form of non-profit corporate bail insurance.
In other words, the Bail Project and their cronies are using people ensnared in the criminal justice system and the victims of crime who have been victimized to make a political point, which is they don’t like the current system and they prefer to burn it down.
In Minnesota, they have so much money (because bailing out 12 peaceful protestors doesn’t cost $35 million), that they announced last week that they will now register as a 501(c)(4) to dodge tax rules prohibiting the use of the funds to lobby the legislature to “end cash bail.” Of course, that also will allow them to donate to political candidates and other political causes that they would have otherwise been prohibited from doing as a charity. And you want to tell us the people in this country from Hollywood to Harlem that donated money to help peaceful protestors are okay with that? We don’t think so, which is why we are surprised smart lawyers who know a little about charitable fraud wouldn’t be all over them like a class-action junkyard dog.
Further, the people that profit from this, who work for the bail funds, aren’t called bail specialists, bail agents, or community bail helpers—they are appropriately titled BAIL DISRUPTORS, because, as the Bail Project said, the project exists solely to make a political or arguably a policy point that we should “end cash bail.” They exist solely to disrupt not improve the system, and what they are actually doing is trying to end all pretrial detention.
So, yes, three states, Indiana, New York, and Texas have regulated charitable bail, with the New York law being by far the preferred approach. Many states from coast to coast have since introduced such legislation and are having conversations about it.
Florida is going in the opposite direction, and trying to help the bail funds have more money to “end cash bail.” Florida is going to instead repeal the long-standing state statute that requires clerks of court to retain bail deposits upon conviction due to one of the purposes of bail being that the defendant is securing the fact that he will answer for the charges. The Bail Project doesn’t like that because it actually helps someone, i.e., the victims of crime due restitution, and thus doesn’t help them make their point. If a victim would get restitution from the Bail Project’s funds, as it does now, then that’s a good argument against “ending cash bail.” Legislation moving through the Florida House (House Bill 65), pushed by the Bail Project, will get rid of that requirement, and make clerks hand the cash right back to defendants, who the bail funds will, by contract, then force defendants to give back to them. So, this will be a way that Bail Project can get themselves off the hook for having to pay for victim restitution, fines, fees and surcharges.
The Bail Project is also being sued in civil court in two states, Kentucky and Nevada, by plaintiffs’ lawyers for making what in many people’s opinion would be potentially negligent decisions as to who they bail out and then the hardened criminals’ actions once they are released – such as murder. These cases are so egregious and horrible, we aren’t even going to mention them specifically—we’ll leave to that you and google. But when the Minnesota Freedom Fund Director said all they do is they pick a file number to decide who to bail out, and when the Nevada fund director indicated they never look at prior criminal history, then you knew they were playing a dangerous game of preventable Russian-roulette that would actually kill innocent people. So, their political point that freedom should be free is actually killing innocent people, like a guy just working his shift at a restaurant or a mother’s son home from college for the holidays.
Using Florida public institutions and the people in them to make a political point is beyond the pale. In Florida, it’s even worse because state taxpayer dollars are being used to help defray the Bail Project’s operating costs, by offering various free office services and office space. If the Bail Project wants to tell people precisely what they really want to do, which we believe is to end all pretrial incarceration, then they should do that and stop lying to people claiming they care. They don’t—they just have a fun gimmick going that they concede is pure first amendment expressive conduct and nothing more. A fun gimmick that costs donors a significant amount of unnecessary costs (salaries, the “disrupting,” etc.) to simply say we don’t like the right to bail and we think everyone should get a get out of jail free card. It shouldn’t cost a $100 million to make that point.
The Florida legislature needs to get up to speed on this issue. Helping the Bail Project expand its footprint by depriving money to victims of crime and the courts is going to cost taxpayers more money, and thus directly help the Bail Project keep disrupting the criminal justice system in Florida, to the benefit of criminals and to the detriment of innocent people who will be the next victims of the bail project’s “free speech.”