St. Louis Record

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Executive order violates Constitution, nonprofit says


By Charmaine Little | Oct 13, 2018

Eastern district appellate court
The governor's executive order barring lobbyist gifts prompted a lawsuit.

ST. LOUIS –– A nonprofit civil liberties law firm challenged an executive order preventing it from distributing material to certain government employees.

The Institute for Justice (IJ) filed the complaint on Oct. 5 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri against Missouri Governor Michael L. Parson, the commissioners of the Missouri Ethics Commission and its executive director, Elizabeth Ziegler. 

The members of the ethics commission are Donald W. Summers, Kimberly J. Benjamin, George A. Raterman and Wayne J. Henke.

According to the lawsuit, IJ was barred from giving any materials to state employees. IJ claims this executive order infringes on its First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

“Defendants, using their respective offices and acting under color of state law, violated and are violating IJ’s rights to free speech and petitioning under the First Amendment, and its rights to equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment,” the complaint states. 

The materials consist of books and reports on public policy matters like professional licensing requirements. The IJ said it’s not allowed to hand out these materials because they are considered “of value” and “fall within the definition of a gift.”  

The executive order is intended to prevent employees from receiving gifts from lobbyists.

IJ requested the court enter a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction that would block the enforcement of the executive order as it relates to IJ’s distribution materials. It also asked for a permanent injunction to bar the enforcement of executive order concerning the distribution of the materials.

IJ seeks costs associated with filing the lawsuit, including attorney fees, as well as any other awards the court might see fit.

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