“Court ruling could force everyday Missourians to register as lobbyists, attorneys say”

KC Star:

Ron Calzone has been walking the hallways of the Missouri statehouse for years, meeting with lawmakers and their staffs, testifying before legislative committees and advocating for the conservative causes he holds dear.

But he swears he’s not a lobbyist.

True, he’s founder, director and sole officer of a nonprofit called Missouri First, a group that includes legislative lobbying to influence public policy in its charter.

Calzone never withholds his affiliation with the group when speaking with elected officials. But he is unpaid, never claims to be speaking on behalf of the organization and never gives legislators gifts of any kind.

Thus, he doesn’t believe he should have to register with the state ethics commission or submit reports detailing all of the ways in which he has attempted to influence legislation.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit disagrees.

In a 2-1 ruling on Wednesday, the court found that Calzone’s activity qualifies as lobbying, and the government’s interest in transparency means even an unpaid lobbyist must register and file lobbying reports.

Howard notes Judge David Stras’s very interesting dissent, raising First Amendment arguments against compelled disclosure and registration.

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