|February 11, 2008|
|National Assn. of Manufacturers strikes blow against openness and transparency in lobbying|
|By Kevin McCauley|
|The National Assn. of Manufacturers struck a blow against openness and transparency yesterday by filing a lawsuit to prevent enforcement of a provision of the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007. It made a big mistake.|
The powerful trade organization of industrial giants believes the First Amendment rights of its members are threatened by Section 207 of the law requiring disclosure of the names of those who pay more than $5,000 to finance lobbying activity.
It fears members may not “express their opinions in the legislative process” if they have to “go on the record.” That’s too bad, but it’s their choice.
John Engler, NAM President (pictured), raised the possibility that a company could be a target of a terror attack if it bankrolls lobbying in support of “hot button” issues such as global warming, nuclear power or labor relations.
In his statement, Engler said:
“For example, anti-globalization forces are increasingly resorting to violent means to oppose both political leaders and officials in the private sector who support transnational economic development.”
Engler also believes "taking policy positions that are unpopular with other groups may lead to boycotts, political pressure, shareholder suits, or other forms of harassments.”
NAM’s suit flies in the face of the trend toward more disclosure. The American public has the right to know who is petitioning their Congress.
Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut said the measure was passed to thwart “stealth lobbying campaigns.” When outed by the media, those stealth campaigns diminish the status of the entire lobbying profession. The Act does lobbying a favor by seeking to eliminate those stealth efforts.
NAM is right when it complains that Section 207 does not require coalitions, wealthy or politically powerful individuals from disclosing financial backing of a lobbying campaign. They should be covered.
Free and open debate is a core principle of American society. Each side of an issue needs to know who is bankrolling the other. It’s a matter of basic fairness.
One can bet that Engler — when he served as Michigan's Governor — asked about the funding of lobbyists who used to drop by his office. That’s just common sense.
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