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Thursday, June 13, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Groups Fight State’s Financial Disclosure Law

TACOMA (CN) - Washington's "Grass Roots Lobbying Campaigns" law violates the First Amendment and exposes volunteers to "harassment, coercion and retribution," two citizens groups claims in Federal Court. The groups say the law's "onerous reporting and disclosure requirements" will force public disclosure of the names, addresses and occupations of their volunteers and contributors and require filing monthly reports "in order to engage in constitutionally protected speech and association."

The law requires people or groups who spend more than $1,000 in any 3 months or $500 in any 1 month in "presenting a program to the public, a substantial portion of which is intended, designed or calculated primarily to influence legislation" to register with the Washington Public Disclosure Commission as a "sponsor" of a grassroots lobbying campaign.

The sponsor must file a report with the PDC that includes names, addresses and occupations of all people in the group and all who contributed more than $25 to the campaign, and must state the purpose of the campaign and report all money spent on the effort, according to the complaint.

Plaintiffs "Many Cultures, One Message," which opposes abuse of eminent domain, and "Red State Politics" dba "Conservative Enthusiasts," which opposes new taxes and regulations, say the law is unconstitutional. They want the Public Disclosure Commission enjoined from enforcing it.

The plaintiffs are represented by William Maurer with the Institute for Justice in Seattle.

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