In August 2016, CCP took the case of Ron Calzone, a citizen activist in the state of Missouri. Some legislators and lobbyists in the state are attempting to silence Mr. Calzone, who has for many years advocated for individual liberty, free markets, and constitutionally limited government. Unfortunately, as Mr. Calzone says, “My activism has made some powerful enemies…Maybe high-paid lobbyists don’t like having to explain to their clients why average citizens, using nothing more than facts, reason and speech, beat them at their own game time and again.” Calzone says he has “angered powerful legislators by opposing them when they were trying to advance unconstitutional bills or ignore constitutional limits on their power.”
Mr. Calzone’s difficulties with state regulators began on Election Day in 2014, when the Society of Government Consultants, a lobbyist guild in Missouri, filed a complaint with the Missouri Ethics Commission. The complaint claimed that, when Mr. Calzone spoke with legislators during his advocacy, he was acting as a paid lobbyist – and that his failure to register as a lobbyist with the state was against the law, subjecting him to fines and possibly even jail time.
CCP’s Legal Team has stepped in to defend Mr. Calzone against these charges, representing Calzone in September when his case came before the Missouri Ethics Commission. The Ethics Commission has argued that because Mr. Calzone has publicly mentioned his involvement with Missouri First – a nonprofit organization with no financial resources – he must register as a lobbyist and list Missouri First as the organization for which he is speaking.
Registered lobbyists must pay a registration fee and regularly submit reports detailing all of the ways in which they have attempted to influence legislation. Not only does the registration requirement put an impermissible condition on a citizen’s constitutionally-protected freedom of speech, it also puts speakers at risk of huge fines – and potential criminal penalties – if the required reports are deemed incomplete.
As CCP Legal Director Allen Dickerson notes, The Missouri Ethics Commission’s claim “is thankfully not the law in Missouri, and would be unconstitutional if it were. Neither Missouri First nor any other organization has ever designated Mr. Calzone as a lobbyist, or paid him at all for the communication at issue in this case. We are confident that the courts will vindicate Mr. Calzone’s clear constitutional right to engage in uncompensated conversation with officials concerning the laws that will govern this state.”
The press release announcing the case can be found here.
U.S. District Court for Western District of Missouri
- Verified Complaint (October 21, 2016)
- Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction (October 21, 2016)
- Suggestions in Support of Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunctive Relief (October 21, 2016)
Nineteenth Judicial Circuit Court of Missouri
- Judgement Making Permanent the Writ of Prohibition (September 23, 2016)
- Supplemental Brief (September 7, 2016)
- Proposed Order Making Permanent the Writ of Prohibition (September 2, 2016)
- Reply Brief in Support of Petition for Writ of Prohibition (July 22, 2016)
- Brief of Missouri Ethics Commission in Opposition to Writ of Prohibition (July 14, 2016)
- Brief Supporting Writ of Prohibition (June 24, 2016)
- Preliminary Order of Prohibition (April 19, 2016)
- Petition for Writ of Prohibition (April 14, 2016)
Missouri Administrative Hearing Commission
- Petitioner’s Opposition to Respondent’s Motion to Continue Deadline (March 18, 2016)
- Respondent’s Motion to Continue Deadline (March 18, 2016)
- Petitioner’s Suggestions in Opposition to Respondent’s Motion to Compel (March 18, 2016)
- Petitioner’s Motion for Summary Decision (March 4, 2016)
- Petitioner’s Motion to Strike, for Leave to File Response to Respondent’s Sur-Reply, and to Substitute Exhibit (February 4, 2016)
- Petitioner’s Response to Respondent’s Sur-Reply (February 4, 2016)
Missouri Ethics Commission
- Motion to Dismiss (August 31, 2015)
- Townhall.com: Show-Me Human Rights, by Paul Jacob (October 2, 2016)
- St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Lobbyists, legislators aim to quash political activist’s free speech, by Ron Calzone (September 30, 2015)
- Jefferson City News Tribune: ‘Citizen lobbyist’ asks Hearing Commission to block Ethics Commission fine, by Bob Watson (September 26, 2015)
- Richmond Times-Dispatch: Unauthorized discussion of politicians strictly prohibited, by A. Barton Hinkle (September 15, 2015)
- Townhall.com: Show Me Tyranny, by Paul Jacob (September 13, 2015)