Mother Jones‘ MoJo Blog and The Hill report on how the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers are questioning the lobbying disclosure rules in the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007. (The law requires any organization actively participating "in the planning, supervision, or control" of lobbying efforts that ponies up more than $5,000 in a quarter to disclose their activities and expenditures.)
The trade groups say that the new rules violate constitutional protections of freedom of association by forcing them to open up their membership lists. So they sent a letter to the Senate secretary and the House clerk asking for a clarification in how it will be applied, charging that the law is vague and broad. Also, the fact the law imposes criminal penalties on groups that fail to accurately disclose their lobby efforts got their attention. "The price for being wrong is extremely high," said the Chamber’s top legal officer as quoted by The Hill.
MoJo cites the Institute for Legal Reform (ILR), their tort reform effort that spends tens of millions a year in a stealth campaign attempting to influence state political and judicial races without declaring the expenditures to the IRS as required by law. Much of these expenditures were in the form of attack ads, all in an effort to "stack the deck with business-friendly judges and public officials," according to Public Citizen. From 2000 through 2004, the Chamber used sham state-level coalitions in an effort to hide the source of funds, and then didn’t disclose the grants to the local groups on its tax documents. Last year, Public Citizen complained to the IRS about the Chamber and its affiliate’s failure to report millions in taxable spending over the four years. This makes the Chamber’s and their trade group friends complaint regarding the new lobbying laws ring somewhat hallow, don’t you think?