Conservative Groups Challenge Rhode Island Campaign Finance Law - State and Federal Communications

November 26, 2019  •  

Conservative Groups Challenge Rhode Island Campaign Finance Law

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Two conservative groups are asking a federal judge to strike down Rhode Island campaign finance laws that make them report political advertising and identify donors.

Rhode Island’s Gaspee Project and the Illinois Opportunity Project filed a lawsuit against the Rhode Island Board of Elections in U.S. District Court arguing that paid political messaging not coordinated with a specific campaign is protected free speech that should not be subject to state financial disclosure laws.

The suit claims the disclosure laws regarding campaign contributions are unconstitutional and that revealing the identity of donors can expose them to retribution, making them less likely to donate.

The Rhode Island law requires any group that makes more than $1,000 in independent expenditures not coordinated with a campaign to report them to the Board of Elections, list what candidate or referendum is involved, list all individual donors who gave more than $1,000 that election cycle, and list the top five donors.

Supporters of the disclosure law believe it will survive the challenge because federal courts around the U.S. have upheld similar disclosure provisions.

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