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Court fight underway to protect American's grassroots activism privacy

Jeanette Petersen will be arguing the case for the Institute for Justice's clients in federal court

The Institute for Justice (IJ) represents Washington state residents from both sides of the political spectrum who are appealing a lower court ruling that permits the State of Washington to monitor, collect and publicly disseminate information about the political activities of private citizens who do nothing more than urge their fellow citizens to take political action. IJ and its clients seek to vindicate the belief that if the First Amendment protects anything, it protects the right of all Americans to speak to one another about the issues affecting their lives without having to first register with the government.

IJ will represent its clients in Seattle, Washington to present oral arguments in federal appeals court at 9 a.m., Friday, November 9, 2012 at the William K. Nakamure U.S.Courthouse.

There are few things more distinctly American than grassroots political activism. From town hall meetings and statehouse rallies to talk radio, blogs and meetups, Americans are constantly finding new and innovating ways to participate in politics. Through such activities, people can alert elected officials to constituents’ preferences, educate fellow citizens and make their voices heard, and even persuade the public to adopt new views.

Under Washington’s “grassroots lobbying” law, if a Washingtonian never talks to an elected official but spends as little as $500 merely to communicate with their neighbors and friends about state policies, they must register with, and provide information to, the government, which then proceeds to disseminate the information on the Internet. Failure to register can lead to an investigation, significant civil and criminal penalties (including treble damages, the costs of the investigation and the government’s attorney’s fees), and a revocation of the ability to engage in any political activity that might qualify as “grassroots lobbying.”


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