High court won’t delay enforcement of lobbying law
Editor’s note: To avoid a $200,000 fine, the National Association of Manufacturers on April 22 said it would disclose the names of its funders but would continue to fight the lobbying-disclosure law. NAM filed a lobbying-disclosure report with the House and Senate on April 21, showing expenditures of $2.2 million in the first quarter. It now plans to file an amended return including names of its members for the period. The trade group also filed a motion April 22 with the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia for an expedited review of its legal challenge to the lobbying law.
WASHINGTON — Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts last night rejected an
emergency request by the National Association of Manufacturers, delivering the
day’s second punch to the group’s fight against a new lobbying law.
The trade group sought relief from the Supreme Court after the U.S. Circuit
Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia earlier rejected
the group’s appeal to postpone enforcement of a key part of the Honest
Leadership and Open Government Act. The provision requires trade groups to name
certain dues-paying members.
A pro-disclosure group had just sent out a release praising the lower court’s
rejection when the second one came from higher up. Yesterday evening, a Supreme
Court spokeswoman said the application had been denied (see NAM
Under the disclosure provision, trade associations and coalitions were
required to disclose by yesterday the names of members, who give more than
$5,000 in a quarterly period for lobbying activities and who actively
participate in the planning and supervision of such activities. The disclosure
must be made to the Senate and the House, which would then post the names
online. NAM filed a statement
yesterday with the House and the Senate saying it was withholding the names
because of its ongoing challenge to the disclosure provision.
“We’re disappointed that we could not get a temporary order, but will
continue our appeal,” said Quentin Riegal, NAM’s vice president for litigation,
in an e-mail.
The manufacturers group, which originally filed a challenge to the law in
early February, took
its campaign to the Supreme Court after the D.C. Circuit, and earlier
this month U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, refused its request
for a stay. The group asked the courts to delay enforcement of the law, pending
its appeal of an April 11 ruling by Kollar-Kotelly.
In that ruling, Kollar-Kotelly rejected NAM’s argument that the law violates
its members’ First Amendment rights. NAM contends the provision could expose its
members to potential harassment and retaliation by others if the group takes
unpopular positions on certain issues.
The group, which does not release the names of its 11,000 members, has said
“several hundred” contribute more than $5,000 annually to the association. If
exposed, many members “will curtail their participation in any NAM activities
that might lead to their disclosure, thus seriously impairing the speech,
expressive association, and petitioning” of the organization, the group said in
its request to the Supreme Court.
The group will provide a report to the House and Senate with a statement
explaining the status of the case.
In her April 11 ruling, Kollar-Kotelly wrote the measure “only requires the
disclosure of the ‘the name, address, and principal place of business’ of
affiliates that meet the disclosure threshold, and thus appropriately seeks only
the information necessary to reveal ‘who pays, who puts up the money, and how
On its Web site, the trade group lists the names of its 220-member board —
including executives from PPG Industries Inc., DuPont & Co., General Motors
Corp., Xerox Corp. and Verizon Communications Inc.
Congress tightened the lobbying-disclosure requirements to target “stealth
coalitions” or groups that use nondescript names to lobby for industries.
Failing to comply with the law carries a $200,000 penalty and a maximum five
years in prison.
The First Amendment Center is an educational organization and cannot provide legal advice.
Ken Paulson is president of the First Amendment Center and dean of the College of Mass Communication at Middle Tennessee State University. He is also the former editor-in-chief of USA Today.
Gene Policinski, chief operating officer of the Newseum Institute, also is senior vice president of the First Amendment Center, a center of the institute. He is a veteran journalist whose career has included work in newspapers, radio, television and online.
John Seigenthaler founded the Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center in 1991 with the mission of creating national discussion, dialogue and debate about First Amendment rights and values.
Dr. Charles C. Haynes is director of the Religious Freedom Center at the Newseum Institute.. He writes and speaks extensively on religious liberty and religion in American public life.
David L. Hudson Jr. is an expert in First Amendment issues and a regular contributor to the First Amendment Center's website. Hudson teaches law and was a scholar at the First Amendment Center.