The League of Women Voters of Cupertino-Sunnyvale filed a lawsuit in the US District Court for Northern District of California challenging a new lobbying disclosure ordinance enacted by the City of Cupertino. The League asserted the ordinance’s definition of lobbying was overbroad in violation of the League’s rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the US Constitution and the California Constitution.
In March 2021, the Cupertino City Council unanimously approved a new “lobbying disclosure ordinance.” The ordinance imposed disclosure and registration requirements on lobbyists, who were categorized into three groups: contract lobbyists, business or organization lobbyists, and expenditure lobbyists. Under these definitions, the League would be considered a business/organization lobbyist.
Under the ordinance, a business or organization lobbyist is defined as “[a]ny business or organization, whose owner(s), officer(s), or employee(s), carry out lobbying on its behalf in an aggregate amount of ten hours or more within any consecutive twelve (12) month period, whether or not such officers or employees are specifically compensated to engage in Lobbying; provided, that the activities of officers shall be considered Lobbying only if those officers receive Compensation by the business or Organization beyond reimbursement for their reasonable travel, meals or incidental expenses.”
In turn, lobbying is defined as, “the Influencing or attempting to influence a Legislative Action or Administrative Action of the City.”
Under the terms of the ordinance, lobbyists must register with the city annually, pay annual registration fees, and pay a lobbying fee per client. Lobbyists must also identify themselves as such when dealing with city officials and employees.
Violations of the ordinance may lead to fines, a ban from lobbying, and possibly being charged with a misdemeanor.
On July 19, 2022, the League of Women Voters of Cupertino-Sunnyvale filed suit, arguing the ordinance was overbroad and violated its rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the US Constitution and Sections 2 and 3 of Article 1 of the California constitution. The League also asserted the ordinance had a chilling effect on its advocacy and moved for preliminary and permanent injunctions forbidding the City of Cupertino from enforcing it against the League.
The League was represented by Steptoe and Johnson LLP.
League files complaint
The League of Women Voters of Cupertino-Sunnyvale files a lawsuit challenging a new lobbying disclosure ordinance as unconstitutional under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the US Constitution and Sections 2 and 3 of Article 1 of the California constitution.
Defendants file motion to dismiss
The defendants file their motion to dismiss, arguing the ordinance is not overbroad and serves important governmental interests of providing information and transparency to decisionmakers.
League files its opposition to Cupertino's motion to dismiss
LWV of Cupertino-Sunnyvale filed its opposition to the City of Cupertino’s motion to dismiss the federal lawsuit filed by the League that challenges the city’s “lobbyist regulation” ordinance.
Cupertino files its reply
Court grants city's motion to dismiss
The court grants the city's motion to dismiss, ruling the ordinance should be considered using exacting scrutiny, requiring only that there be a substantial relationship between the disclosure requirements and a “sufficiently important” governmental interest. The opinion states that given the city's interest in transparency, the challenged provisions were not overbroad under this standard and should be upheld as constitutional.
City council enacts revised ordinance
After further negotiations between the city and LWV Cupertino, the city council enacts a new ordinance containing many of the League's suggested revisions, including changes to the definition of lobbyists and protections for citizens informing the public about important city issues.
Parties agree to dismiss case
To reflect the passage of the revised ordinance, the court consents to a joint motion by LWV Cupertino and the city vacating its previous opinion granting the motion to dismiss and dismisses the case with prejudice.