BREAKING: Supreme Court Declines to Review Rhode Island Disclosure Law in a Win for Transparency and Voters


Washington, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a petition for certiorari to hear an appeal in Gaspee Project v. Mederos, letting stand a First Circuit decision upholding Rhode Island’s political spending transparency rules. Along with the Rhode Island Office of Attorney General, Campaign Legal Center (CLC) served as outside co-counsel to the state defendants in the Supreme Court proceedings.

“To reduce political corruption, we need real transparency about who is spending big money in elections and to that end, voters in Rhode Island have a right to know who is attempting to influence their votes,” said Paul Smith, senior vice president of Campaign Legal Center. “This denial of review from the Supreme Court of the United States means that vital right will remain in place and  continue to enable Rhode Islanders to be well-informed before heading into the voting booth.”

At issue before the Supreme Court was a provision of Rhode Island’s 2012 Independent Expenditures and Electioneering Communications Act that requires election-related advertisements run by certain groups to include “top five” disclaimers identifying their five largest contributors.

Two groups, Gaspee Project and Illinois Opportunity Project, filed this lawsuit in 2020 challenging the top-five disclaimer provision and other transparency requirements in the Act as unconstitutional. Both plaintiffs were seeking to spend thousands of dollars distributing election-related mailers to Rhode Island voters without identifying themselves or their large contributors to the public.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island and the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals both rejected the challenge, finding that the law constitutionally serves the state’s vital interest in informing voters about those spending large sums of money to influence their votes. The Supreme Court’s denial of certiorari leaves these strong transparency provisions in place, delivering a win for Rhode Islanders’ right to know about the sources of election-related spending. 

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