MR. CHIEF JUSTICE WARREN delivered the opinion of the Court.
The appellees were charged by information with violation of the Federal Regulation of Lobbying Act, 60 Stat. 812, 839, 2 U. S. C. §§ 261-270. Relying on its previous
Seven counts of the information are laid under § 305, which requires designated reports to Congress from every person "receiving any contributions or expending any money" for the purpose of influencing the passage or defeat of any legislation by Congress.
The other two counts in the information are laid under § 308, which requires any person "who shall engage himself for pay or for any consideration for the purpose of attempting to influence the passage or defeat of any legislation" to register with Congress and to make specified disclosures.
We are not concerned here with the sufficiency of the information as a criminal pleading. Our review under the Criminal Appeals Act is limited to a decision on the alleged "invalidity" of the statute on which the information is based.
The constitutional requirement of definiteness is violated by a criminal statute that fails to give a person of ordinary intelligence fair notice that his contemplated conduct is forbidden by the statute. The underlying principle is that no man shall be held criminally responsible for conduct which he could not reasonably understand to be proscribed.
The same course is appropriate here. The key section of the Lobbying Act is § 307, entitled "Persons to Whom Applicable." Section 307 provides:
This section modifies the substantive provisions of the Act, including § 305 and § 308. In other words, unless a "person" falls within the category established by § 307, the disclosure requirements of § 305 and § 308 are inapplicable.
The Government urges a much broader construction— namely, that under § 305 a person must report his expenditures to influence legislation even though he does not solicit, collect, or receive contributions as provided in
We now turn to the alleged vagueness of the purposes set forth in § 307 (a) and (b). As in United States v. Rumely, 345 U.S. 41, 47, which involved the interpretation of similar language, we believe this language should be construed to refer only to "lobbying in its commonly accepted sense"—to direct communication with members of Congress on pending or proposed federal legislation. The legislative history of the Act makes clear that, at the very least, Congress sought disclosure of such direct pressures, exerted by the lobbyists themselves or through their hirelings or through an artificially stimulated letter campaign.
There remains for our consideration the meaning of "the principal purpose" and "to be used principally to
To summarize, therefore, there are three prerequisites to coverage under § 307: (1) the "person" must have solicited, collected, or received contributions; (2) one of the main purposes of such "person," or one of the main purposes of such contributions, must have been to influence the passage or defeat of legislation by Congress; (3) the intended method of accomplishing this purpose must have been through direct communication with members of Congress. And since § 307 modifies the substantive provisions of the Act, our construction of § 307 will of necessity also narrow the scope of § 305 and § 308, the substantive provisions underlying the information in this case. Thus § 305 is limited to those persons who are covered by § 307; and when so covered, they must report all contributions and expenditures having the purpose of attempting to influence legislation through direct communication with Congress. Similarly, § 308 is limited to those persons (with the stated exceptions
Thus construed, §§ 305 and 308 also do not violate the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment—freedom to speak, publish, and petition the Government.
Present-day legislative complexities are such that individual members of Congress cannot be expected to explore the myriad pressures to which they are regularly subjected. Yet full realization of the American ideal of government by elected representatives depends to no small extent on their ability to properly evaluate such pressures. Otherwise the voice of the people may all too easily be drowned out by the voice of special interest groups seeking favored treatment while masquerading as proponents of the public weal. This is the evil which the Lobbying Act was designed to help prevent.
Toward that end, Congress has not sought to prohibit these pressures. It has merely provided for a modicum of information from those who for hire attempt to influence legislation or who collect or spend funds for that purpose. It wants only to know who is being hired, who is putting up the money, and how much. It acted in the same spirit and for a similar purpose in passing the Federal Corrupt Practices Act—to maintain the integrity of a basic governmental process. See Burroughs and Cannon v. United States, 290 U.S. 534, 545.
Under these circumstances, we believe that Congress, at least within the bounds of the Act as we have construed it, is not constitutionally forbidden to require the disclosure of lobbying activities. To do so would be to deny Congress in large measure the power of self-protection.
It is suggested, however, that the Lobbying Act, with respect to persons other than those defined in § 307, may as a practical matter act as a deterrent to their exercise of First Amendment rights. Hypothetical borderline situations are conjured up in which such persons choose to remain silent because of fear of possible prosecution for failure to comply with the Act. Our narrow construction of the Act, precluding as it does reasonable fears, is calculated to avoid such restraint. But, even assuming some such deterrent effect, the restraint is at most an indirect one resulting from self-censorship, comparable in many ways to the restraint resulting from criminal libel laws.
The appellees further attack the statute on the ground that the penalty provided in § 310 (b) is unconstitutional. That section provides:
This section, the appellees argue, is a patent violation of the First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and the right to petition the Government.
We find it unnecessary to pass on this contention. Unlike §§ 305, 307, and 308 which we have judged on their face, § 310 (b) has not yet been applied to the appellees, and it will never be so applied if the appellees are found innocent of the charges against them. See United States v. Wurzbach, 280 U.S. 396, 399; United States v. Petrillo, 332 U.S. 1, 9-12.
Moreover, the Act provides for the separability of any provision found invalid.
MR. JUSTICE CLARK took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.
MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, with whom MR. JUSTICE BLACK concurs, dissenting.
I am in sympathy with the effort of the Court to save this statute from the charge that it is so vague and indefinite as to be unconstitutional. My inclinations were that way at the end of the oral argument. But further study changed my mind. I am now convinced that the formula adopted to save this Act is too dangerous for use. It can easily ensnare people who have done no more than exercise their constitutional rights of speech, assembly, and press.
We deal here with the validity of a criminal statute. To use the test of Connally v. General Construction Co., 269 U.S. 385, 391, the question is whether this statute "either forbids or requires the doing of an act in terms so vague that men of common intelligence must necessarily guess at its meaning and differ as to its application." If it is so vague, as I think this one is, then it fails to meet the standards required by due process of law. See United States v. Petrillo, 332 U.S. 1. In determining that question we consider the statute on its face. As stated in Lanzetta v. New Jersey, 306 U.S. 451, 453:
And see Winters v. New York, 333 U.S. 507, 515.
The question therefore is not what the information charges nor what the proof might be. It is whether the statute itself is sufficiently narrow and precise as to give fair warning.
It is contended that the Act plainly applies
The Court adopts that view, with one minor limitation which the Court places on the Act—that only persons who solicit, collect, or receive money are included.
The difficulty is that the Act has to be rewritten and words actually added and subtracted to produce that result.
Section 307 makes the Act applicable to anyone who "directly or indirectly" solicits, collects, or receives contributions "to be used principally to aid, or the principal purpose of which person is to aid" in either
We start with an all-inclusive definition of "legislation" contained in § 302 (e). It means "bills, resolutions, amendments, nominations, and other matters
What contributions might be used "principally to aid" in influencing "directly or indirectly, the passage or defeat" of any such measure by Congress? When is one retained for the purpose of influencing the "passage or defeat of any legislation"?
(1) One who addresses a trade union for repeal of a labor law certainly hopes to influence legislation.
(2) So does a manufacturers' association which runs ads in newspapers for a sales tax.
(3) So does a farm group which undertakes to raise money for an educational program to be conducted in newspapers, magazines, and on radio and television, showing the need for revision of our attitude on world trade.
(4) So does a group of oil companies which puts agents in the Nation's capital to sound the alarm at hostile legislation, to exert influence on Congressmen to defeat it, to work on the Hill for the passage of laws favorable to the oil interests.
(5) So does a business, labor, farm, religious, social, racial, or other group which raises money to contact people with the request that they write their Congressman to get a law repealed or modified, to get a proposed law passed, or themselves to propose a law.
Are all of these activities covered by the Act? If one is included why are not the others? The Court apparently excludes the kind of activities listed in categories (1), (2), and (3) and includes part of the activities in (4) and (5)—those which entail contacts with the Congress.
The words "direct communication with Congress" are not in the Act. Congress was concerned with the raising of money to aid in the passage or defeat of legislation, whatever tactics were used. But the Court not only strikes out one whole group of activities—to influence "indirectly"—but substitutes a new concept for the remaining group—to influence "directly." To influence "directly" the passage or defeat of legislation includes any number of methods—for example, nationwide radio, television or advertising programs promoting a particular measure, as well as the "buttonholing" of Congressmen. To include the latter while excluding the former is to rewrite the Act.
This is not a case where one or more distinct types of "lobbying" are specifically proscribed and another and different group defined in such loose, broad terms as to make its definition vague and uncertain. Here if we give the words of the Act their ordinary meaning, we do not know what the terminal points are. Judging from the words Congress used, one type of activity which I have enumerated is as much proscribed as another.
The importance of the problem is emphasized by reason of the fact that this legislation is in the domain of the First Amendment. That Amendment provides that "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people . . . to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
Can Congress require one to register before he writes an article, makes a speech, files an advertisement, appears
If that rule were relaxed, if Congress could impose registration requirements on the exercise of First Amendment rights, saving to the courts the salvage of the good from the bad, and meanwhile causing all who might possibly be covered to act at their peril, the law would in practical effect be a deterrent to the exercise of First Amendment rights. The Court seeks to avoid that consequence by construing the law narrowly as applying only to those who are paid to "buttonhole" Congressmen or who collect and expend moneys to get others to do so. It may be appropriate in some cases to read a statute with the gloss a court has placed on it in order to save it from the charge of vagueness. See Fox v. Washington, 236 U.S. 273, 277. But I do not think that course is appropriate here.
The language of the Act is so broad that one who writes a letter or makes a speech or publishes an article
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON, dissenting.
Several reasons lead me to withhold my assent from this decision.
The clearest feature of this case is that it begins with an Act so mischievously vague that the Government charged with its enforcement does not understand it, for some of its important assumptions are rejected by the Court's interpretation. The clearest feature of the Court's decision is that it leaves the country under an Act which is not much like any Act passed by Congress. Of course, when such a question is before us, it is easy to differ as to whether it is more appropriate to strike out or to strike down. But I recall few cases in which the Court has gone so far in rewriting an Act.
The Act passed by Congress would appear to apply to all persons who (1) solicit or receive funds for the purpose of lobbying, (2) receive and expend funds for the purpose of lobbying, or (3) merely expend funds for the purpose of lobbying. The Court at least eliminates this last category from coverage of the Act, though I should suppose that more serious evils affecting the public interest are to be found in the way lobbyists spend their money than in the ways they obtain it. In the present indictments, six counts relate exclusively to failures to
Also, Congress enacted a statute to reach the raising and spending of funds for the purpose of influencing congressional action directly or indirectly. The Court entirely deletes "indirectly" and narrows "directly" to mean "direct communication with members of Congress." These two constructions leave the Act touching only a part of the practices Congress deemed sinister.
Finally, as if to compensate for its deletions from the Act, the Court expands the phrase "the principal purpose" so that it now refers to any contribution which "in substantial part" is used to influence legislation.
I agree, of course, that we should make liberal interpretations to save legislative Acts, including penal statutes which punish conduct traditionally recognized as morally "wrong." Whoever kidnaps, steals, kills, or commits similar acts of violence upon another is bound to know that he is inviting retribution by society, and many of the statutes which define these long-established crimes are traditionally and perhaps necessarily vague. But we are dealing with a novel offense that has no established bounds and no such moral basis. The criminality of the conduct dealt with here depends entirely upon a purpose to influence legislation. Though there may be many abuses in pursuit of this purpose, this Act does not deal with corruption. These defendants, for example, are indicted for failing to report their activities in raising and spending money to influence legislation in support of farm prices, with no charge of corruption, bribery, deception, or other improper action. This may be a selfish business and against the best interests of the nation as a whole, but it is in an area where legal penalties should be applied only by formulae as precise and clear as our language will permit.
In matters of this nature, it does not seem wise to leave the scope of a criminal Act, close to impinging on the right of petition, dependent upon judicial construction for its limitations. Judicial construction, constitutional or statutory, always is subject to hazards of judicial reconstruction. One may rely on today's narrow interpretation only at his peril, for some later Court may expand the Act to include, in accordance with its terms, what today the Court excludes. This recently happened with the antitrust laws, which the Court cites as being similarly vague. This Court, in a criminal case, sustained an indictment by admittedly changing repeated and long-established constitutional and statutory interpretations. United States v. South-Eastern Underwriters Assn., 322 U.S. 533. The ex post facto provision of our Constitution has not been held to protect the citizen against such a retroactive change in decisional law, but it does against such a prejudicial change in legislation. As long as this statute stands on the books, its vagueness will be a contingent threat to activities which the Court today rules out, the contingency being a change of views by the Court as hereafter constituted.
"(a) Every person receiving any contributions or expending any money for the purposes designated in subparagraph (a) or (b) of section 307 shall file with the Clerk between the first and tenth day of each calendar quarter, a statement containing complete as of the day next preceding the date of filing—
"(1) the name and address of each person who has made a contribution of $500 or more not mentioned in the preceding report; except that the first report filed pursuant to this title shall contain the name and address of each person who has made any contribution of $500 or more to such person since the effective date of this title;
"(2) the total sum of the contributions made to or for such person during the calendar year and not stated under paragraph (1);
"(3) the total sum of all contributions made to or for such person during the calendar year;
"(4) the name and address of each person to whom an expenditure in one or more items of the aggregate amount or value, within the calendar year, of $10 or more has been made by or on behalf of such person, and the amount, date, and purpose of such expenditure;
"(5) the total sum of all expenditures made by or on behalf of such person during the calendar year and not stated under paragraph (4);
"(6) the total sum of expenditures made by or on behalf of such person during the calendar year.
"(b) The statements required to be filed by subsection (a) shall be cumulative during the calendar year to which they relate, but where there has been no change in an item reported in a previous statement only the amount need be carried forward."
The following are "the purposes designated in subparagraph (a) or (b) of section 307":
"(a) The passage or defeat of any legislation by the Congress of the United States.
"(b) To influence, directly or indirectly, the passage or defeat of any legislation by the Congress of the United States."
"(a) Any person who shall engage himself for pay or for any consideration for the purpose of attempting to influence the passage or defeat of any legislation by the Congress of the United States shall, before doing anything in furtherance of such object, register with the Clerk of the House of Representatives and the Secretary of the Senate and shall give to those officers in writing and under oath, his name and business address, the name and address of the person by whom he is employed, and in whose interest he appears or works, the duration of such employment, how much he is paid and is to receive, by whom he is paid or is to be paid, how much he is to be paid for expenses, and what expenses are to be included. Each such person so registering shall, between the first and tenth day of each calendar quarter, so long as his activity continues, file with the Clerk and Secretary a detailed report under oath of all money received and expended by him during the preceding calendar quarter in carrying on his work; to whom paid; for what purposes; and the names of any papers, periodicals, magazines, or other publications in which he has caused to be published any articles or editorials; and the proposed legislation he is employed to support or oppose. The provisions of this section shall not apply to any person who merely appears before a committee of the Congress of the United States in support of or opposition to legislation; nor to any public official acting in his official capacity; nor in the case of any newspaper or other regularly published periodical (including any individual who owns, publishes, or is employed by any such newspaper or periodical) which in the ordinary course of business publishes news items, editorials, or other comments, or paid advertisements, which directly or indirectly urge the passage or defeat of legislation, if such newspaper, periodical, or individual, engages in no further or other activities in connection with the passage or defeat of such legislation, other than to appear before a committee of the Congress of the United States in support of or in opposition to such legislation.
"(b) All information required to be filed under the provisions of this section with the Clerk of the House of Representatives and the Secretary of the Senate shall be compiled by said Clerk and Secretary, acting jointly, as soon as practicable after the close of the calendar quarter with respect to which such information is filed and shall be printed in the Congressional Record."
This rule as to statutes charged with vagueness is but one aspect of the broader principle that this Court, if fairly possible, must construe congressional enactments so as to avoid a danger of unconstitutionality. United States v. Delaware & Hudson Co., 213 U.S. 366, 407-408; United States v. Congress of Industrial Organizations, 335 U.S. 106, 120-121; United States v. Rumely, 345 U.S. 41, 47. Thus, in the C. I. O. case, supra, this Court held that expenditures by a labor organization for the publication of a weekly periodical urging support for a certain candidate in a forthcoming congressional election were not forbidden by the Federal Corrupt Practices Act, which makes it unlawful for ". . . any labor organization to make a contribution or expenditure in connection with any [congressional] election . . . ." Similarly, in the Rumely case, supra, this Court construed a House Resolution authorizing investigation of "all lobbying activities intended to influence, encourage, promote, or retard legislation" to cover only "`lobbying in its commonly accepted sense,' that is, `representations made directly to the Congress, its members, or its committees.'"
"First. Those who do not visit the Capitol but initiate propaganda from all over the country in the form of letters and telegrams, many of which have been based entirely upon misinformation as to facts. This class of persons and organizations will be required under the title, not to cease or curtail their activities in any respect, but merely to disclose the sources of their collections and the methods in which they are disbursed.
"Second. The second class of lobbyists are those who are employed to come to the Capitol under the false impression that they exert some powerful influence over Members of Congress. These individuals spend their time in Washington presumably exerting some mysterious influence with respect to the legislation in which their employers are interested, but carefully conceal from Members of Congress whom they happen to contact the purpose of their presence. The title in no wise prohibits or curtails their activities. It merely requires that they shall register and disclose the sources and purposes of their employment and the amount of their compensation.
"Third. There is a third class of entirely honest and respectable representatives of business, professional, and philanthropic organizations who come to Washington openly and frankly to express their views for or against legislation, many of whom serve a useful and perfectly legitimate purpose in expressing the views and interpretations of their employers with respect to legislation which concerns them. They will likewise be required to register and state their compensation and the sources of their employment."
S. Rep. No. 1400, 79th Cong., 2d Sess., p. 27; Committee Print, July 22, 1946, statement by Representative Monroney on Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946, 79th Cong., 2d Sess., pp. 32-33. See also the statement in the Senate by Senator La Follette, who was Chairman of the Joint Committee, at 92 Cong. Rec. 6367-6368.
"If any provision of this Act or the application thereof to any person or circumstances is held invalid, the validity of the remainder of the Act and of the application of such provision to other persons and circumstances shall not be affected thereby."