Volunteers May Not Need to Register as Lobbyists, Eighth Circuit to Review

Missouri's lobbyist registration law threatens freedom of speech and petition

January 29, 2019   •  By IFS Staff   •  
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Alexandria, VA – The Institute for Free Speech applauds the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals’ significant and unusual decision to rehear Calzone v. Missouri Ethics Commission.

The case concerns a Missouri law that forces unpaid citizen activists to comply with the same registration, reporting, and disclosure requirements as professional lobbyists. In November, a three-judge panel of the Eighth Circuit upheld that law (over a dissent by Judge David Stras) against a challenge by Ron Calzone, a Missouri citizen, who regularly testifies before the Missouri General Assembly. As Judge Stras argued in his powerful dissent, “The [Missouri] law seemingly sweeps up all unpaid political advocacy by anyone who acts on behalf of someone else, no matter how often it occurs and regardless of its purpose.”

On Monday, the Eighth Circuit vacated the panel ruling and granted en banc review.

“The Eighth Circuit is right to take a second look at this crucial case,” said Institute for Free Speech Legal Director Allen Dickerson. “People differ over how to regulate paid political speech, but no one should support regulating purely voluntary activity with no financial dimension whatsoever.”

“Missouri’s unprecedented regulation of unpaid advocacy raises new questions about the most basic rights guaranteed by our Constitution. We are glad the Eighth Circuit is taking the time to get this case right,” said David Roland, Director of Litigation for the Freedom Center of Missouri.

The decision of the three-judge panel was a victory for the Missouri Ethics Commission, which has spent years pursuing Calzone. The Commission wants to force Calzone to register as a lobbyist and file fourteen reports with the state each year, despite the fact that he does not receive any compensation and does not give anything of value to legislators, other than his opinions.

Calzone is represented by attorneys from the Institute for Free Speech and the Freedom Center of Missouri. To read more about the case, click here.

About the Institute for Free Speech

The Institute for Free Speech is a nonpartisan, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that promotes and defends the First Amendment rights to freely speak, assemble, publish, and petition the government. Originally known as the Center for Competitive Politics, it was founded in 2005 by Bradley A. Smith, a former Chairman of the Federal Election Commission. The Institute is the nation’s largest organization dedicated solely to protecting First Amendment political rights.

IFS Staff

IFS Staff