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Judge throws out suit filed by lobbying firms

Published December 31, 2006


TALLAHASSEE - A federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit over a state law banning lobbyists' gift-giving to legislators and requiring that lobbyists disclose who pays them and how much.

The lawsuit was filed by lobbyists who claimed that disclosing their compensation was unconstitutional on privacy and equal protection grounds.

U.S. District Judge Stephan Mickle denied those claims Thursday, writing that the state has "a compelling interest in imposing regulations on paid lobbyists" and that the plaintiffs "cannot reasonably argue (they) are similarly situated with other citizens who petition the government."

Lobbying firms also have no protected right to privacy under either the federal or state constitution because they give that right to people, not corporations, Mickle said.

Mickle had refused to temporarily block enforcement of the law in May.

The decision was a victory for Senate President Tom Lee, R-Valrico, who led the fight for passage during a special legislative session. One of the toughest ethics laws in the nation, it bans gifts from lobbyists and forces disclosure of information. It took effect Jan. 1, 2006.

Lobbyist Ronald Book said he was disappointed with the ruling.

"The judge clearly did not have any sympathy for lobbyists, and obviously believes the Legislature can legislate anything they want against lobbyists, regardless of its fairness," Book said.

The Florida Association of Professional Lobbyists was a plaintiff in the lawsuit.



[Last modified December 31, 2006, 00:57:18]

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