Rhode Island recently joined the growing list of states that have updated their campaign finance laws to reflect the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United. Important revisions to the state’s statute took effect at the end of June 2012. The new law requires that independent expenditure ads or electioneering communications aired in Rhode Island state elections by certain tax-exempt organizations must disclose in the ad itself the names of the top five donors to the organization. Organizations that make independent expenditures or electioneering communications must also file public reports listing any donors who gave $1,000 or more to the organization. If the organization chooses to establish a segregated account to be used for such independent expenditures and electioneering communications, and does not use any other account for that purpose, then it would be required to disclose only the names of donors to that segregated account.
The requirement that ads identify the top five donors of ther organization that paid for the ad is catching on as a popular mechanism for states that wish to discourage independent expenditures. It seems likely that these super-charged disclosure rules will draw legal challenges from those who argue that there are constitutional limits on campaign finance disclosure requirements when they are intended to, or have the effect of, discouraging political speech. But they might have to convince Justice Scalia.