By Jamey Dunn
Nonprofit organizations have been temporarily spared from paying thousands of dollars in fees to lobby Illinois lawmakers.
A law aimed at cleaning up unethical practices in the wake of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s impeachment would also nearly triple the fees that lobbyist must pay (pg 131) each year to register with the state.
The new law goes into effect January 1 and would require organizations to pay $1,000 to register and an additional $1,000 per lobbyist.
Both the American Civil Liberties Union and the Illinois Society of Association Executives are suing Secretary of State Jesse White on the basis that the increased fees infringe on the First Amendment rights of lobbyists by requiring them to pay an unreasonable amount to discuss legislation and policy with elected officials. White is named in the suit because his office administers the registration program.
A judge ruled today to temporarily block the state from collecting the increased fees from nonprofit groups. All other lobbyists will have to pay the higher fees.
Adam Schwartz, senior staff counsel for the ACLU, said other than Illinois, no state has registration fees higher than $365, and 42 states have a fee of $150 or lower.
Schwartz said nonprofit organizations, including the ACLU, would feel that pain if such a large increase were allowed to go into effect. “We are talking about nonprofit organizations that are not showing up with buckets of money,” he said. “We are concerned that there are some groups that will be squeezed out of the process.”
White spokesman Henry Haupt declined to comment on the case.