The National Association of Manufacturers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Society of Association Executives want to know whether new lobbying and ethics rules require them to disclose their membership list—and won’t rule out a court fight if they do.
In a letter sent to the Secretary of the Senate this week, the three trade associations requested guidance before the new law goes into effect on the first of the year. Language in the new law calls for the disclosure of any member who contributes more than $5,000 per quarter to lobbying activities, and who “actively participates in the planning, supervision or control” of lobbying. In the letter, the associations assert the language could cover everyone, including members who sit on policy subcommittees, and could violate Constitutional guarantees of freedom of association.
“We need to determine whether Congress really intended what it seems to have wrought, if you will,” says Jay Timmons, senior vice president of policy & government relations at NAM. The provision “doesn’t give us a very clear roadmap to know what we need to disclose,” says Steven Law, the chief legal officer for the Chamber. The law carries criminal penalties for groups that violate it. Both Law and Timmons confirm that their organizations may sue to block membership disclosures.