United States v. Rumely
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345 U.S. 41 (1953)
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U.S. Supreme Court
United States v. Rumely, 345 U.S. 41 (1953)
United States v. Rumely
Argued December 11-12, 1952
Decided March 9, 1953
345 U.S. 41
Respondent was secretary of an organization which, among other things, engaged in the sale of books of a political nature. He refused to disclose to a committed of Congress the names of those who made bulk purchases of these books for further distribution, and was convicted under R.S. § 102, as amended, which provides penalties for refusal to give testimony or to produce relevant papers "upon any matter" under congressional inquiry. Under the resolution empowering it to function, the Committee was
"authorized and directed to conduct a study and investigation of (1) all lobbying activities intended to influence, encourage, promote, or retard legislation; and (2) all activities of agencies of the Federal Government intended to influence, encourage, promote, or retard legislation."
Held: The Committee was without power to exact the information sought from respondent. Pp. 345 U. S. 42-48.
(a) To construe the resolution as authorizing the Committee to inquire into all efforts of private individuals to influence public opinion through books and periodicals, however remote the radiations of influence which they may exert upon the ultimate legislative process, would raise doubts of constitutionality in view of the prohibition of the First Amendment. P. 345 U. S. 46.
(b) The phrase "lobbying activities" in the resolution is to be construed as lobbying in the commonly accepted sense of "representations made directly to the Congress, its members, or its committees," and not as extending to attempts "to saturate the thinking of the community." P. 345 U. S. 47.
(c) The scope of the resolution defining respondent's duty to answer must be ascertained as of the time of his refusal, and cannot be enlarged by subsequent action of Congress. Pp. 345 U. S. 47-48.
90 U.S.App.D.C. 382, 197 F.2d 155, affirmed.
Respondent was convicted under R.S. § 102, as amended, 2 U.S.C. § 192, for refusal to give certain information to a congressional committee. The Court of
Appeals reversed. 90 U.S.App.D.C. 382, 197 F.2d 166. This Court granted certiorari. 344 U.S. 812. Affirmed, p. 345 U. S. 48.