Under the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007, registered lobbyists must disclose organizations that contribute more than $5,000 to the registrant and actively participate in the planning, supervision, or control of the registrant’s lobbying activities. The National Association of Manufacturers filed suit contending that the HLOGA violated the First Amendment facially and as applied.
The court found that the provision survived strict scrutiny. The purpose of the provision, according to the statute, was to increase public awareness of the efforts of paid lobbyists to influence public decisionmaking, a compelling interest per United States v. Harriss, 347 U.S. 612 (1954), and Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1 (1976). NAM argued, based on floor statements, that the purpose was to force disclosure of participants in so-called “stealth coalitions,” but this was rejected on the ground that it confused what was otherwise clear and unambiguous statutory text. The court also rejected NAM’s argument that Congress’s findings were insufficient to support the informational interest, noting, among other things, deference to congressional findings. Finally, the court found that the provision advanced the informational interest and was narrowly tailored. The disclosure regime Congress chose was far less restrictive than direct regulation, and arguably advanced First Amendment values.
On the as applied challenge, the court rejected NAM’s argument that NAM was analogous to NAACP members exposed to reprisals, physical threats, and other hostility, NAACP v. Alabama, 357 U.S. 449 (1958); there was no evidence that NAM members suffered harm or retaliation as a result of NAM’s lobbying activities. The risks that NAM claimed its members would suffer were no different than those suffered by any organization employing lobbyists. The court also rejected a vagueness challenge, noting the use of the same or similar allegedly vague terms in other statutes that survived such a challenge, and noting the presence of a scienter requirement and a safe harbor.