For the second time this year, legislation infringing on American citizens' First Amendment rights was defeated in the U.S. Congress. On May 1, anti-gun Representatives Martin Meehan (D-Mass.) and Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) introduced H.R. 2093, legislation restricting grassroots lobbying. The "Meehan-Shays amendment" would have defined communications by organizations such as NRA, that were written with the intent of mobilizing citizens to contact Congress as "lobbying," subjecting those efforts to onerous registration and reporting requirements for the first time in American history. In the past Congress has specifically exempted grassroots mobilizing from the definition of "lobbying." Meehan offered H.R. 2093 as an amendment to H.R. 2316 (the "Honest Leadership and Open Government Act") at the House Judiciary Committee markup yesterday and it was defeated on a voice vote with only one of his colleagues speaking in its favor.
Judiciary ranking member Lamar Smith, (R-Tex.), said he thought the grassroots requirement would violate the First Amendment, a position backed by a loose coalition of mostly conservative groups and ultimately accepted by none other than House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.). "I have been convinced by communications from the American Civil Liberties Union, and even the National Rifle Association and the National Right to Life Committee," Conyers said.
This legislation is of particular importance to NRA members, as they represent some of the very individuals this legislation would have targeted and affected.
The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to consider H.R. 2316 during the week of May 21, and Meehan may attempt to offer H.R. 2093 as a floor amendment to the House lobbying reform legislation. NRA members should urge their congressman to oppose and vote against such an amendment to restrict grassroots advocacy!
In January of this year, the U.S. Senate voted 55-43 to accept an amendment to S.A. 3, the "Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act," removing a proposal that, similar to H.R. 2093, would have drastically limited the First Amendment rights of Americans in the political process. The Bennett-McConnell Amendment, offered by Sens. Robert Bennett (R-Utah) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), removed Section 220 that would have forced citizens to register with the federal government as "lobbyists," with all the attendant restrictions, costs, and penalties.
Below you will find a link to the letter from NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris W. Cox to the House Judiciary Committee regarding H.R. 2093.