Lobbying Disclosure Act 109 Stat. 691 (1995)

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LOBBYING DISCLOSURE ACT 109 Stat. 691 (1995)

The first full-scale lobbying reform legislation passed into law since 1946, the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 requires paid lobbyists to register with a national Office of Lobbying Registration and Public Disclosure and prohibits such lobbyists from providing gifts to legislators.

In previous decisions, the Supreme Court has recognized the protection of lobbyists by the first amendment guarantee of the right to petition. The 1946 Federal Regulation of Lobbying Act, the only other omnibus lobbying regulation measure, was severely limited in its scope by the Court in U.S. v. Harriss (1954). Harriss established a very narrow definition of the term "lobbyist"; only those who have "direct communication with Members of Congress" were so defined for the purpose of the act, effectively excluding nearly all individuals from its regulatory mechanism.

The Lobbying Disclosure Act substantially broadens the definition of "lobbyist" established in Harriss. The act also significantly limits the actions of those defined as lobbyists, banning gifts to members of Congress and prohibiting lobbyists from receiving federal grants. The act thus clearly restricts the broad freedoms presently claimed by lobbyists under the First Amendment. Whether the Court will accept or reject this departure from Harriss will have a significant effect on its interpretation of First Amendment petitioning guarantees.

David K. Ryden