DC Circuit upholds Congressional lobbying disclosure law

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] on Tuesday affirmed [opinion, PDF] a district court decision [opinion, PDF] upholding the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 (HLOGA) [text, PDF], which requires members of Congress to disclose more information about their fund-raising efforts and gifts they receive from lobbyists, and also prohibits former congress members from lobbying for a short period of time. The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) [official website] initially brought suit in the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website], arguing that section 207 of the HLOGA violates the First Amendment [Cornell LII backgrounder] by requiring NAM and other groups to disclose the names of its members who contribute more than $5,000 quarterly to lobbying activities and those who actively participate in those activities. In rejecting NAM's constitutional arguments, the DC Circuit held that the legislation met the constitutional requirements of serving a compelling government interest and narrow tailoring, and also that the legislation is sufficiently clear:

[T]here is more than a "substantial" relation between the governmental interest in greater transparency and the information that amended § 1603(b)(3) requires to be disclosed; in fact, the section's disclosure requirements are narrowly tailored and effectively advance that interest. Moreover ... the governmental interest in providing information about "who is being hired, who is putting up the money, and how much" they are spending to influence federal decisionmakers ... is not just "some legitimate governmental interest..." It is a "vital national interest." ...

We conclude that, although the statute may not be a paragon of clarity, it is not so vague as to violate the Constitution, even applying the heightened standard applicable to regulation of speech ... the HLOGA marks the legislature's attempt to shine increasing light on the efforts of paid lobbyists to influence the public decisionmaking process. We find nothing unconstitutional in the way Congress has gone about that task.
A spokesperson said NAM is now considering an appeal [AP report].

The HLOGA was signed [JURIST report] into law in 2007 by then-president George W. Bush [official profile]. The legislation was designed to force lawmakers to disclose pet projects and divulge more details about campaign contributions. It requires congressmen to flag their support of earmarks [JURIST report] and disclose donations from lobbyists who "bundle" donations totaling over $15,000. The legislation also strips pensions from lawmakers found guilty of bribery or perjury.


 

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