William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal
The Constitutionality of Lobby Reform: Implicating Associational Privacy and the Right to Petition the Government
Lobbyists currently are required to register and report to the United States Congress under the Federal Regulation of Lobbying Act of 1946. Because of poor draftsmanship, the 1946 Act actually covers few lobbyists and is not enforced by the federal government. One recent federal bill attempts to reform lobbying registration by addressing the inadequacies of the current law. If enacted, this bill might be challenged as an impediment to First Amendment rights. Any attempt at lobby reform implicates the First Amendment right to petition the government and the right of associational privacy. These issues have been analyzed by state and federal courts in cases representing challenges to lobbying regulations. An analytical framework can be extracted from these cases which offers the most desirable method of balancing individual liberties with the need for lobbying regulation. The recent federal bill is analyzed under this framework and practical solutions are offered to help ensure the constitutionality of future attempts at lobby reform.