COAST Wins in Court

Between tweeting happily about U.S. Rep. John Murtha’s death and gloating over Cincinnati losing out on federal funding for its proposed streetcar project, an anti-tax group has also posted on its blog about something more substantive: A legal victory against an Ohio law it said was unconstitutional.—-

The Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) had sought a temporary injunction and summary judgment against the so-called “revolving door” law that prohibited Ohio lawmakers from acting as lobbyists for a full year after they left public office.

COAST filed the motion in May because it wanted one of its members, former State Rep. Tom Brinkman Jr. (R-Mount Lookout), to serve as the group’s uncompensated lobbyist immediately, without waiting for the prohibited period to pass. Brinkman left the Ohio Legislature in December 2008 due to term limits, meaning he couldn’t legally function as COAST’s lobbyist until Jan. 1, 2010.

COAST and the group’s treasurer, Mark Miller, had argued the law violated Brinkman’s First Amendment rights because it wasn’t narrowly tailored to address the legitimate state interest in preventing quid pro quo corruption.

In a ruling issued today, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Dlott agreed, citing the recent Citizens United ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, which allowed unlimited corporate donations to political campaigns.

“The Supreme Court recently spoke against attempts to favor or disfavor certain speakers or viewpoints,” Dlott wrote. “As such, Defendants have failed to establish any compelling governmental interest justifying (the law) as applied to uncompensated lobbying.”

Dlott’s decision apparently keeps the one-year restriction intact for former lawmakers who are paid to lobby.

A temporary injunction previously was granted in August, preventing enforcement until a final decision was made.

It’s not known yet whether the state of Ohio will appeal the decision.

Although Brinkman isn’t paid for lobbying, court documents reveal that COAST paid Curry Printing Co., a firm owned by Brinkman’s wife, about $13,195 for printing services between 2001 and 2009.

Read the full decision here.