The Institute for Free Speech filed an amicus brief in the case Sullivan v. Texas Ethics Commission in the Supreme Court of Texas.
The brief argues that the Court of Appeals erroneously decided questions of constitutional significance. Texas’s lobbyist disclosure and fee statutes should be reviewed under First Amendment strict scrutiny. Instead, the Court of Appeals misapplied U.S. Supreme Court decisions to employ “exacting scrutiny.” Reviewed under the proper standard, both Texas laws are unconstitutional. The registration regulation fails strict scrutiny as applied to Sullivan. And the licensure tax fails strict scrutiny both facially and as applied to Sullivan.
The government cannot usurp First Amendment freedoms by simply asserting unspecified interests in lobbyist identification information and preventing corruption. Instead, it must demonstrate how these interests are served by what its laws require from Sullivan. Texas has failed to show its regulations are properly tailored to serve a compelling government interest. Neither Texas’s informational nor its anti-corruption interests are served by prosecuting Sullivan for failing to provide information on a government form when he voluntarily provided the requisite information directly to the government officials he was trying to persuade. Nor are such interests served by forcing Sullivan, or others, to pay a licensure tax for government permission to engage in First Amendment activity. Read the full amicus brief here.