State rebuts suit challenging law on lobbyist fund raising

April 19, 1997|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF

Lawyers for the state filed a rebuttal yesterday in Baltimore federal court to a lawsuit by anti-abortion advocates seeking to overturn Maryland's law prohibiting lobbyists from raising campaign funds for legislative candidates.

Two officials with the Maryland Right to Life State Political Action Committee filed the suit in U.S. District Court in February, alleging that the restrictions on lobbyists infringe on their constitutional right to raise political funds for the candidates of their choice.

But the Maryland attorney general's office argued in its brief that the law has a justifiable goal -- to limit potentially corrupting influence of lobbyists in the financial end of the political process.

"You can justify a First Amendment infringement if your reasons are good enough and the way you go about doing it doesn't trample too hard on the person affected," said Robert A. Zarnoch, an assistant attorney general who drafted the legal filing.

A Maryland law enacted by the General Assembly in 1991 prohibits registered lobbyists from raising money for legislative candidates or from serving on fund-raising or political action committees.

In the lawsuit, David Lam and Cathy Hammer, employees of Maryland Right to Life Inc., assert that they would like to lobby the General Assembly on issues and serve on an anti-abortion political action committee that would raise funds for candidates.

But taking part in both activities would violate state ethics laws and subject them to civil and criminal penalties, the lawsuit claims.

"The enforcement of the [law] would punish them for exercising their rights, privileges, and immunities guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution," the lawsuit says.

Under Maryland law, lobbyists are free to make personal contributions to legislative candidates, but cannot "solicit" donations from others. Before the law was enacted, many lobbyists in Annapolis raised huge amounts of money for some )) candidates.

Pub Date: 4/19/97

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