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The Right to Petition as Access and Information

Our lobbying industry is widely criticized as a pay-for-play system that prioritizes powerful interests at the expense of the common good. Legislative efforts at lobbying reform, however, raise fundamental questions under the First Amendment, particularly where lobbying regulations operate to restrict lobbying activity directly. Recent scholarship into the First Amendment Petition Clause, however, offers new insights into what the First Amendment means for lobbying and public engagement with lawmakers more generally. As the history of petitioning in England, the American colonies, and Congress illustrates, the right to petition protected more than simply a form of political speech but rather a quasi-procedural right to equal participation in the lawmaking process.