Blazejewski: Citizens United makes new RI disclosure law vital

The health care ruling wasn’t the only major decision the U.S. Supreme Court handed down late last month. On June 25, the high court’s five conservative justices struck down a Montana law limiting campaign spending by corporations to the dismay of Citizens United opponents.

By coincidence, the following day Governor Chafee signed into law the new campaign finance disclosure legislation [pdf] championed by Rep. Chris Blazejewski, D-Providence, and backed by Rhode Island’s top three elected officials: Lincoln Chafee, Gordon Fox and M. Teresa Paiva Weed.

What, if anything, does the Montana decision mean for Rhode Island’s new law? In an email, Blazejewski said the law is meant for the post-Citizens United landscape reflected in the justices’ latest ruling:

The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the Montana case makes Rhode Island’s new disclosure law more important than ever. The Supreme Court in the Montana case upheld the central outcome in Citizens United, namely that corporations, unions, and other outside groups – including and especially Super PACs – can spend limitless amounts of money influencing our elections. With the Supreme Court’s clear statement that it will not reconsider this damaging decision, Rhode Island’s new disclosure law responds by providing for enhanced disclosure requirements, as expressly contemplated by the Supreme Court, that seek to shine a light and provide greater transparency on the potentially limitless spending of outside groups in our elections.

The new law – which includes a requirement that the final four seconds of independent groups’ political TV ads list its major donors – takes effect immediately, with the first disclosures due by Aug. 1.

• Related: Q&A: How RI’s new Super PAC disclosure rules would work (Feb. 16)

(photo: Ted Nesi/WPRI)

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