UNITED STATES v. RUMELY - CONSTITUTIONAL LIMITATIONS OF CONGRESSIONAL POWER

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thelivyjr
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Re: UNITED STATES v. RUMELY - CONSTITUTIONAL LIMITATIONS OF CONGRESSIONAL POWER

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UNITED STATES v. RUMELY, continued ...

Supreme Court

35 If the present inquiry were sanctioned the press would be subjected to harassment that in practical effect might be as serious as censorship.

A publisher, compelled to register with the federal government, would be subjected to vexatious inquiries.

A requirement that a publisher disclose the identity of those who buy his books, pamphlets, or papers is indeed the beginning of surveillance of the press.


True, no legal sanction is involved here.

Congress has imposed no tax, established no board of censors, instituted no licensing system.

But the potential restraint is equally severe.

The finger of government leveled against the press is omnious.

Once the government can demand of a publisher the names of the purchasers of his publications, the free press as we know it disappears.

Then the spectre of a government agent will look over the shoulder of everyone who reads.

The purchase of a book or pamphlet today may result in a subpoena tomorrow.

Fear of criticism goes with every person into the bookstall.


The subtle, imponderable pressures of the orthodox lay hold.

Some will fear to read what is unpopular what the powers-that-be dislike.

When the light of publicity may reach any student, any teacher, inquiry will be discouraged.

The books and pamphlets that are critical of the administration, that preach an unpopular policy in domestic or foreign affairs, that are in disrepute in the orthodox school of thought will be suspect and subject to investigation.

The press and its readers will pay a heavy price in harassment.

But that will be minor in comparison with the menace of the shadow which government will cast over literature that does not follow the dominant party line.

If the lady from Toledo can be required to disclose what she read yesterday and what she will read tomorrow, fear will take the place of freedom in the libraries, bookstores, and homes of the land.

Through the harassment of hearings, investigations, reports, and subpoenas government will hold a club over speech and over the press.

Congress could not do this by law.

The power of investigation is also limited.
6

Inquiry into personal and private affairs is precluded. See Kilbourn v. Thompson, 103 U.S. 168, 190, 26 L.Ed. 377; McGrain v. Daugherty, 273 U.S. 135, 173—174, 47 S.Ct. 319, 328, 71 L.Ed. 580; Sinclair v. United States, 279 U.S. 263, 292, 49 S.Ct. 268, 271, 73 L.Ed. 692.

And so is any matter in respect to which no valid legislation could be had. Kilbourn v. Thompson, supra, 103 U.S. at pages 194—195, 26 L.Ed. 377; McGrain v. Daugherty, supra, 273 U.S. at page 171, 47 S.Ct. at page 327.

Since Congress could not by law require of respondent what the House demanded, it may not take the first step in an inquiry ending in fine or imprisonment.

*
The ambiguity of the terms of the resolution — that is, whether questions asked to which answers were refused were within those terms — is reflected by the close division by which the committee's view of its own authority prevailed.

The vote was 183 to 175.

TO BE CONTINUED ...
thelivyjr
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Re: UNITED STATES v. RUMELY - CONSTITUTIONAL LIMITATIONS OF CONGRESSIONAL POWER

Post by thelivyjr »

UNITED STATES v. RUMELY, continued ...

Supreme Court

1 This section provides in pertinent part: 'Every person who having been summoned as a witness by the authority of either House of Congress to give testimony or to produce papers upon any matter under inquiry before either House, * * * or any committee of either House of Congress, willfully makes default, or who, having appeared, refuses to answer any question pertinent to the question under inquiry, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000 nor less than $100 and imprisonment in a common fail for not less than one month nor more than twelve months.'

2 H.Res. 298, 81st Cong., 1st Sess.

3 When the Taft-Hartley law was under discussion, CCG published a pamphlet 'Labor Monopolies or Freedom' of which 250,000 copies were distributed.
'All members of Congress got a copy.'

'It went to publishers.'

'People who could take opinion that way, and mint it into small coin to distribute to others.' H.R.Rep.No.3024, supra, p. 11.

Respondent testified that Frank Gannett paid for that distribution.

4 'Pressure groups interpret the Lobbying Act in different ways.

Some file expenses.

Others file full budget, but list expenditures they judge allocable to legislative activities.

Still others file only expenditures directly concerned with lobbying.

'Some organizations argue they need not file unless principal purpose is influencing legislation.'

'But Justice Department says, 'principal' includes all who have substantial legislative interests.'

'Lobbies also differ on who filed expenditures organizations or individuals.' 95 Cong.Rec. 11389.

5 An analysis of the scope of the investigation and the meaning of 'lobbying' is contained in the General Interim Report of the Select Committee. H.R.Rep. No. 3138, 81st Cong., 2d Sess., pp. 5 et seq.

6 Cf. Barsky v. United States, 83 U.S.App.D.C. 127, 167 F.2d 241, certiorari denied, 334 U.S. 843, 68 S.Ct. 1511, 92 L.Ed. 1767, rehearing denied 339 U.S. 971, 70 S.Ct. 1001, 94 L.Ed. 1379, and Marshall v. United States, 85 U.S.App.D.C. 184, 176 F.2d 473, certiorari denied, 339 U.S. 933, 70 S.Ct. 663, 94 L.Ed. 1352, rehearing denied 339 U.S. 959, 70 S.Ct. 976, 94 L.Ed. 1369.

https://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/345/41
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