Rhode Island Governor Lincoln D. Chafee today announced that he will introduce a bill mandating full disclosure of previously unregulated political expenditures. The Governor worked collaboratively to develop the legislation with Common Cause Rhode Island, whose Executive Director, John Marion, took part in the announcement. The Governor was also joined by the legislation's sponsors: House Speaker Gordon Fox, Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed, Senate President Pro Tempore Juan Pichardo, and Representative Chris Blazejewski.
"Since the Citizens United decision, we have seen the rise and increased influence of so-called 'Super PACs' and other powerful outside organizations and individuals," Governor Chafee said. "These special interests are currently permitted to play a significant role in the political process with little-to-no transparency or oversight. The Transparency in Political Spending Act seeks to change that by making those individuals and organizations trying to influence the outcome of an election accountable to the people of Rhode Island."
"Disclosure of campaign donors and spending -- regardless of whether it's by a candidate directly or by some group that is trying to influence elections -- is vital information that the public deserves. If organizations are going to be allowed to come in and spend limitless amounts on getting the person they want elected, at a minimum the people of our state have the right to know where that money is coming from," said House Speaker Gordon Fox.
President of the Senate M. Teresa Paiva Weed said, "Voters have a right to know who is paying to deliver the messages attempting to influence their decisions at that ballot box. Campaign finance disclosure is absolutely vital to the health of our representative democracy."
Senator Juan M. Pichardo said, "Transparency is very important in all of government, and especially the election process. Our constituents deserve to know who is making the contributions that fund campaigns designed to influence them at the ballot box, and I am proud to sponsor this legislation which provides this accountability in the campaign process."
"This legislation is aimed at disclosing who is trying to exert influence over campaigns. In a small state like Rhode Island, the funding available to a super PAC could threaten to undermine our elections with unknown, undisclosed, and potentially limitless political spending. This act is about letting the public know who is behind the message, so Rhode Islanders can make informed judgments about what they're being told," said Representative Chris Blazejewski.
"This legislation is at the heart of the Common Cause mission of open, accountable and ethical government," said John Marion, Executive Director of Common Cause Rhode Island. "We believe the citizens of Rhode Island should know who is trying to influence their votes."
The bill, "Transparency in Political Spending Act (TIPS)," will be introduced by the Governor. Its primary sponsors are Senator Juan Pichardo (D-Providence) and Representative Chris Blazejewski (D-Providence, East Providence) and among its secondary sponsors are House Speaker Gordon Fox (D-Providence) and Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed (D-Newport, Jamestown). The proposed legislation requires individuals and organizations that engage in "independent expenditures" and "electioneering communications" to report donors and expenditures to the Rhode Island State Board of Elections and to include disclaimers on media and internet advertising. An "independent expenditure" is an expenditure that expressly advocates for the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate and is not coordinated with any candidate's campaign, authorized candidate committee or political party committee. "Electioneering communications" are print, broadcast, cable, satellite, or electronic media communications not coordinated with any candidate, authorized candidate committee or political party committee which unambiguously identifies a candidate and is made within 60 days of a general or special election or within 30 days of a primary and can be received by 5,000 or more persons in the constituency.