Every American should feel free to speak out and support causes they believe in, without fear of retribution or retaliation. But in Rhode Island, speaking up comes at a price: your privacy.
State law requires anyone who donates more than $1,000 to a nonpartisan, issue advocacy group to be reported if the group engages in advocacy at certain times of the year. The supporter’s name, job title, employer, home address and donation amount are posted to a government website for public viewing.
In the weeks leading up to an election or referenda, the group must also list the names of their top five financial supporters on any marketing or messages – regardless of whether these individuals support that particular position or want their name to be publicized.
This makes someone who supports an unpopular or controversial idea susceptible to retaliation or harassment. The only option for someone to avoid having personal information made public is to not donate or to limit their financial support, effectively chilling their right to free speech.
By conflating electoral and issue advocacy, the state has opened up opportunities for organizations and individuals to be “named and shamed” – or worse – for their positions on certain issues.
The Gaspee Project et al. v. Mederos challenges Rhode Island’s unconstitutional disclosure requirements and seeks to restore individuals First Amendment rights.