Limiting the Public’s Voice

By November 29, 2007Miscellaneous

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Just a reminder as we comment on lobbying.

The National Association of Manufacturers, the American Society of Association Executives, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to the secretary of the Senate and the clerk of the House asking for guidance on the new “Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007,” P.L. 110-81, or HLOGA for short.

The law, and specifically Section 207, casts a wide net. The section would require associations to disclose the identity of members contributing more than $5,000 per quarter toward lobbying activities and that “actively participate in the planning, supervision, or control of such lobbying activities.”

The issue gets into some pretty technical legal areas. Key point: Requirements are so vague that they discourage people and groups from associating with one another (and consequently, from petitioning the government). As the letter states, “[Section 207] would force associations and chambers of commerce to overdisclose — thus eroding the confidentiality of association membership that is intrinsic to the constitutional nght of free association.”

There’s nothing like a vague law to encourage politically motivated investigations and prosecutions, conducted not to enforce the statutes or to benefit the public but simply to weaken a group or individual you disagree with. Clarity and consistency are the prerequisites for the real rule of law. The law fails to meet those requirements.

You can read the joint letter here.

CQ Politics covers the story: Business Groups Seek Clarification of New Lobbying Law
The Hill: Trade groups question new lobbying law

Join the discussion One Comment

  • Joe says:

    So what are you saying? That you don’t want to disclose where the lobbying efforts originate? What’s wrong with shedding light on who is “paying” for what? If NAM wants to show a senator what some manufacturers are struggling with you send him to Ohio to let him personally see the plant and their struggles. What’s’ wrong with disclosing that procedure?

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