D.C. Circuit Upholds Lobbying Disclosure Law:

Yesterday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit rejected the National Association of Manufacturers First Amendment challenges to recent revisions to federal lobbying disclosure rules. Among other things, NAM argued the law requires greater disclosure of NAM's membership, and that this would chill its members' involvement in public policy issues. The court found such arguments unavailing, and rejected the challenge. The 48-page opinion in National Association of Manufacturers v. Taylor, by Judge Garland (joined by Judges Ginsburg and Henderson) begins:

More than fifty years ago, the Supreme Court held that the public disclosure of "who is being hired, who is putting up the money, and how much" they are spending to influence legislation is "a vital national interest." United States v. Harriss, 347 U.S. 612, 625-26 (1954). Today, we consider a constitutional challenge to Congress' latest effort to ensure greater transparency, the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007. Because nothing has transpired in the last half century to suggest that the national interest in public disclosure of lobbying information is any less vital than it was when the Supreme Court first considered the issue, we reject that challenge.

Howard Bashman rounds up news coverage of the ruling here.

John Thacker (mail):
One key challenge of the ruling is distinguishing it from NAACP v. Alabama (1958), which the court does by saying that the preceding case only applies where there are real threats against the membership, and not just hypothetical threats but evidence of past threats. (Not that the NAM claimed threats on that scale.)
9.9.2009 9:52am
SuperSkeptic (mail):
Can anyone, anymore, really claim threats on that scale?
9.9.2009 10:58am
J. Aldridge:
Can anyone, anymore, really claim threats on that scale?

9.9.2009 11:18am
Doc Merlin:
They should point to the recent case with the auto bailouts and the "chilling effect" as people were threatened by the white house.
9.9.2009 2:17pm
I can imagine organizations that have a strong interest in not disclosing their membership lists.

The National Association of Manufacturers surely isn't among them. When you are NAM, the way you sway legislatures is as much by disclosing the fact that you have members in the politician's jurisdiction who could be impacted by the legislation as you do with campaign contributions.

Nothing gets a legislator's attention like, "if you pass this bill I'll have to lay off hundreds of people."

Indeed, the biggest deep, non-ideological counterargument to campaign finance reform is that legislatures will continue to care about big business interests, no matter how much you remove money from the legislative process itself, because decisions that impact big business impact lots of people, and legislators care about issues that impact lots of people.
9.9.2009 8:12pm

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