Washington Grassroots Lobbying

Many Cultures, One Message et al. v. Clements
Protecting Americans’ Right To Engage In Grassroots Political Activism

IJ client Pat Murakami of Many Cultures, One Message

Mark Sussman and Alfred Petermann of Conservative Enthusiasts  

Download the PDF: Mowing Down the Grassroots: How Grassroots Lobbying Disclosure Suppresses Political Participation
 Watch the case video

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 innovative 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.  In fact, it’s hard to imagine our system of government working without an active and engaged populace of grassroots activists.

But at least 36 states have laws requiring people who engage in grassroots political activism to register with the government.  In Washington, which has one of the most extensive regulations affecting citizen political participation in the nation, if you spend above an artificially low government-imposed cap to urge your fellow citizens to contact government officials, you are forced to register with the government and report your name, address, business, and occupation, the names and addresses of anyone with whom you are working to spread your message, and the names and addresses of each person who contributes as little as $25 to your efforts.

Some Washingtonians believe that the government has no constitutional authority to monitor, collect and disseminate information about the political activities of private citizens.  Two organizations with diverse policy concerns—Many Cultures, One Message and Conservative Enthusiasts—each face the dilemma of registering with the government or halting their efforts to urge their fellow Washingtonians into political action.  That is why on April 15, 2010, they joined with the Institute for Justice to file suit against the members of Washington’s Public Disclosure Commission.  Many Cultures, One Message et al. v. Clements seeks to vindicate the fundamental right of all Americans to engage in political activity without governmental interference.

Unfortunately, on February 4, 2013, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed their challenge to Washington’s so-called “grassroots” lobbying law, holding that these two activist groups had not clearly demonstrated that they intended to undertake activities that would bring them within the reach of the law.  However, because the 9th Circuit dismissed the case on procedural grounds, it ordered the trial court to vacate its decision upholding the constitutionality of the law.  This means that in the future other grassroots activists may challenge the law and will not be bound by a trial court decision that has not been reviewed by a higher court.







Essential Background


Backgrounder: Protecting Americans’ Right To Engage In Grassroots Political Activism

Client Photos

Video: Case Launch Press Conference

Case Video
Launch Release: Lawsuit Seeks to Protect Americans’ Right To Most-Basic Political Speech: Talking to Their Neighbors (April 15, 2010)

Legal Briefs and Decisions

Download: 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissal (February 4, 2013) (PDF)
Latest Release: 9th Circuit Dismisses Challenge to Constitutionality Of Washington’s “Grassroots” Lobbying Law On Procedural Grounds; Doesn’t Reach Merits of Case (February 4, 2013)
Download: Institute for Justice Complaint (PDF)


Case Timeline

Lawsuit Filed:


April 15, 2010

Court Filed:


United States District Court for the Western District of




Current Court:


United States District Court for the Western District of



Case filed

Next Key Date:



Additional Releases

Maps, Charts and Facts

Release: Federal Trial Court Ignores First Amendment, Upholds Washington Regulation of Citizen-to-Citizen Speech (November 9, 2011)


none available
Release: Mowing Down the Grassroots:New Report Details How “Grassroots Lobbying” Laws Threaten Political Participation (April 15, 2010) 

Op-eds, News Articles and Links

Article: Mowing Down the Grassroots; Liberty & Law (June 2010)

Article: The Regulation of Grassroots Lobbying (March 31, 2010) 

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