Federal Regulation of Lobbying Act of 1946 Law and Legal Definition

Federal Regulation of Lobbying Act of 1946 is U.S.’s first comprehensive lobbying disclosure law for domestic lobbyists. The primary objective of the 1946 Act was to establish a system of lobbyist registration and disclosure. The Act provided a system of registration and financial disclosure of those attempting to influence legislation in Congress. It required anyone whose “principal purpose” was to influence the passage or defeat of legislation in Congress to register with the Clerk of the House and the Secretary of the Senate and file quarterly financial reports. However, the Regulation Act was widely perceived as poorly drafted and ineffective.

The Act was further weakened by U.S. Supreme Court decision in United States v. Harriss 347 U.S. 612 (U.S. 1954), where the court narrowed the application of the Act in order to avoid finding it unconstitutional due to poor drafting. Without ruling on the merits of regulating lobbying, the court determined that the Act only applied to “paid lobbyists” who “directly communicate” with Members of Congress on “pending legislation.” Thus, the court interpreted the Act to cover only efforts to influence the passage or defeat of a specific bill, but not other congressional activities. Persons who spend less than half of their time contacting members of Congress on legislation were exempt from the reporting requirements.