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High court won't delay enforcement of lobbying law

By The Associated Press,
First Amendment Center Online staff
04.22.08

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 v. Taylor).

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 much.”

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.


Previous
Federal judge rebuffs challenge to lobbying law
Manufacturers group had argued that provision of federal statute that requires trade associations to release names of certain members violates First Amendment. 04.15.08

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