Victory! SCOTUS Declines To Review Rhode Island Disclosure Law

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Red brick buildings and a church steeple in Providence, Rhode Island overlooking the water.
Providence, Rhode Island.

The U.S. Supreme Court has denied a petition for certiorari seeking to hear an appeal in Gaspee Project v. Mederos, letting stand a decision by the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals upholding Rhode Island’s political spending transparency rules.

Campaign Legal Center (CLC) served as outside co-counsel to the state defendants in the Supreme Court proceedings, along with the Rhode Island Office of Attorney General.

In 2012, Rhode Island enacted the Independent Expenditures and Electioneering Communications Act, which seeks to promote transparency in elections by providing disclosure from groups that spend large sums to influence voters.

At issue in the Supreme Court was a provision requiring that election-related advertisements run by certain groups must 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 important transparency provisions in place.

Voters in Rhode Island have a right to know who is spending big money to influence their votes. The Supreme Court’s denial of review protects that vital right, enabling voters to be well-informed when heading into the voting booth.

Brendan is a senior communications manager for campaign finance and ethics issues at CLC.
Upholding State and Local Transparency and Disclosure Laws