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Calzone v. Hagan

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Central Division

March 1, 2017

RONALD JOHN CALZONE, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY HAGAN, et. al Defendants.

          ORDER

          NANETTE K. LAUGHREY, United States District Judge

         Before the Court is Plaintiff Ron Calzone's Motion for Temporary Restraining Order, [Doc. 2]. For the following reasons, the Motion is denied.

         I. Background

         In his verified complaint, Plaintiff Ronald Calzone describes himself as "a citizen activist who is passionate about the principles of individual liberty and constitutionally limited government." [Doc. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1, p. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1]. He states that no entity has "designated him to serve as its lobbyist, " and "no one pays him to share with the state's legislators his thoughts about the best approach to public policy". Id.

         The evidence shows however that Mr. Calzone is the incorporator and director of Missouri First Inc., a non-profit organization that "seeks to assert and defend the appropriate sovereignty of Missourians." [Doc. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1-2, p. 36 of 52]. Mr. Calzone is the only officer of Missouri First. He is the registered agent of Missouri First and he is one of three members of the Board of Directors of Missouri First. [Doc. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">17-1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1, p. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">13 of 239:1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">10-22]. The Charter of Missouri First States:

Missouri First will give priority to educating and mobilizing the public to meet our objectives. Media advertising, public oratory, informational seminars, legislative lobbying, and citizen involvement may be used to teach or to influence public policy.. .. Missouri First will campaign for legislative and ballot issues .. .

[Doc. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1-2, p. 26 or 52] (emphasis added).

         Missouri First's website seeks members to join it to further the agenda of Missouri First:

By joining Missouri First, you place your name and influence on the right side of the issues affecting Missourians. The old saying "there is strength in numbers" holds true, especially when lobbying Missouri House and senate members. ... All we ask is that you agree with the principles outlined in our Charter and fill out the form below. . . .We ask this form to be completed that we may better keep you informed on Missouri issues, and to bolster our [your] clout when fighting the war for sovereignty.

[Doc. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">17-1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1, pp. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">14of239:1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">13-25; 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">15 of 239:1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1-7] (emphasis in the original).

         Missouri First's website also permits Missourians to fill out "witness forms" to give an opinion about proposed or pending legislation. Missouri First, Inc., states that it will present all witness forms to the appropriate committee of the Missouri General Assembly.

         Mr. Calzone regularly comes to meet with individual legislators, legislative staff, and other legislative groups, to talk about specific legislation and potential legislation, and what should be passed or blocked. Id. at 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">18 of 239:21');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1-25; 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">19 of 239:1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1-3. He would typically identify himself as "Ron Calzone, Director of Missouri First, or Ron Calzone, a director of Missouri First." Id. at 88 of 239:1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">13-1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">18. On a witness form in the Missouri Senate:

Mr. Calzone identifie[d] himself as appearing on behalf - not of himself but appearing on behalf of Missouri First, Inc. When he signed that and said I'm appearing on behalf of Missouri First, Inc., he was the only officer for Missouri First, Inc. He was the president and he was the secretary.

Id. at 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">19 of 239:4-1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1.

         Mr. Calzone is aware that people in Jefferson City have complained that he should be registered under Missouri law as a lobbyist because of his activities in the Missouri Capitol. Mr. Calzone admits he clearly lobbies but contends he is not a "legislative lobbyist" under Missouri law. He also says "[t]hat his hat was-he felt his hat was to represent the faceless mask of citizens who did not have a lobbyist." Id. at 96 of 239:1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">18-24. There is no evidence in the record that anyone other than Calzone has spoken to legislators to further the lobbying commitment of Missouri First, Inc.

         Under Mo. Rev. Stat. § 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">105.470, Missouri defines a lobbyist as:

[A]ny natural person who acts for the purpose of attempting to influence the taking, passage, amendment, delay or defeat of any official action on any bill, resolution, amendment, nomination, appointment, report or any other action or any other matter pending or proposed in a legislative committee in either house of the general assembly, or in any matter which may be the subject of action by the general assembly and in connection with such activity" who also:
(c) Is designated to act as a lobbyist by any person, business entity, governmental entity, religious organization, nonprofit corporation, association or other entity."

         Based on this statute, the Missouri Ethics Commission received two complaints against Calzone, one in 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">14 and another in 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">16, asserting he violated the statute because he was designated as a lobbyist for Missouri First but had not registered, paid a lobbying fee, or made regular reports to the state as required.

         The 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">14 complaint against Calzone was filed by Missouri Society of Governmental Consultants. [Doc. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1-2, Exhibit B]. On September 3, 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">15, the Ethics Commission held a hearing on the complaint. The Parties have submitted the transcript of that hearing to this Court as evidence.

         The Missouri Ethics Commission found probable cause to believe that Calzone violated the lobbying statute because he:

... .attempted to influence official action on matters pending before the Missouri Legislature in 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">13 and 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">14, and while doing so acted on behalf of Missouri First, Inc. and its members, as a regular pattern of conduct and consistent with a Charter purpose of ...

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