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By MICHAEL SMALLBERG
It's now been several months since the Obama Administration finalized its policy to remove registered lobbyists from federal advisory committees. But on K Street, the battle is far from over.
The Hill reported last week about a lawsuit filed by several lobbyists who are challenging the Administration’s policy on constitutional grounds. The complaint was filed in September 2011 by six lobbyists, most of whom were serving on Industry Trade Advisory Committees (ITACs) run by the Commerce Department and United States Trade Representative (USTR).
The plaintiffs in the case are Erik Autor from the National Retail Federation; Nate Herman, who had represented the Travel Goods Association; Cass Johnson from the National Council of Textile Organizations; Stephen Lamar from the American Apparel and Footwear Association; Andrew Zamoyski, who had represented the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates; and William Reinsch from the National Foreign Trade Council.
The lobbyists contend that the Administration’s ban violates their First Amendment rights by
denying the benefit of committee service to individuals whose exercise of the right to petition triggers the [Lobbying Disclosure Act’s] registration requirement, while also interfering with the ability of the entities that seek the services of these lobbyists to communicate their views to the government.
In addition, the plaintiffs claim, the ban will reduce transparency and exacerbate perceptions of undue influence because lobbyists will simply de-register in order to evade the LDA requirements. They also argue that the ban is “squarely inconsistent” with the Trade Act of 1974, under which the Administration is required to “seek information and advice from representative elements of the private sector” regarding trade issues.
One of the lawyers working with the lobbyists told The Hill that the Administration’s ban is akin to excluding committee members because of their religious beliefs: