It’s rare these days for powerful business interests to be rebuffed by the U.S. Supreme Court, but that’s what happened when Chief Justice John Roberts denied an emergency request from the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) last week having to do with disclosure. NAM has been waging a court battle against a new law (Section 207 of P.L. 110-81) that requires trade associations to list member companies that are extensively involved in developing the organization’s lobbying strategies or that contribute at least $5,000 toward those efforts. NAM believes its members should be able to lobby confidentially.
NAM was seeking a stay on enforcement of a portion of the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act that took effect on April 21. The DC Court of Appeals turned down the request, so NAM went to the Supreme Court, which also said no.
This week, NAM submitted an amended lobbying disclosure filing to the Clerk of the House and the Secretary of the Senate. Beginning on page 54 of the 71-page document, NAM responded to a question about additional affiliated organizations by including a link to a page on its website.
That page contains the names of 63 large corporations and two trade associations (American Petroleum Institute and the Edison Electric Institute) whose lobbying involvement, NAM decided, now has to be made public. Not surprisingly, the companies include giant industrials in sectors such as energy, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, heavy equipment, food processing and aerospace. In other words, companies that have a lot of interests that need to be fostered in Washington.
Here’s the complete list: Albemarle Corporation, American Electric Power, American Petroleum Institute, AREVA Group, AT&T, Bayer Corporation, BD, Boston Scientific Corporation, BP Corporation North America, Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, Campbell Soup Company, Caterpillar Inc., Chevron Corporation, CN, CONSOL Energy, Corning Incorporated, Deloitte & Touche LLP, Delphi Corporation, Dominion Resources Services, Dow Corning Corporation, Eastman Chemical Company, Edison Electric Institute, Entergy Corporation, Exxon Mobil Corporation, FirstEnergy Corp., FMC Technologies, General Electric, Goodrich Corporation, Illinois Tool Works, Ingersoll-Rand, JELD-WEN, Inc., Johnson Controls, Koch Industries, Loews Corporation, Marathon Oil, Mead Westvaco, Merck & Company, Northrop Grumman, Occidental Petroleum, Owens-Illinois, PPG Industries, PPL Corporation, Rockwell Automation, Rohm and Haas, SABIC Americas, Inc., Sanofi-Aventis, Shell Oil, Smurfit-Stone Container, Sony Electronics, Temple-Inland, Terra Industries, Textron, The Clorox Company, The Hershey Company, The Timken Company, Unilever United States, Union Pacific, United States Steel, USEC, Verizon, Volvo Group North America, W L Gore & Associates, W. R. Grace & Co., Weyerhaeuser Company, and Xerox Corporation.
It is no great surprise that companies such as these are deeply involved in trying to shape federal policies, but what’s important here is the principle: lobbying is not a process that companies can engage in surreptitiously by funneling their spending through business associations. NAM President John Engler (former Republican Governor of Michigan) warned that the new disclosure requirement might prompt companies “to curtail their memberships or restrict their involvement in trade associations.” That might sound like a problem to Engler, but less corporate involvement in manipulating public policy is music to my ears.