Campaign finance ruling may invalidate RI law

Campaign Financing

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down a limit on campaign donations, saying it is fundamental free speech.

For candidates, it means rich people will be able to give to more candidates -- and that's Republican or Democratic.

Opponents to the decision fear it will mean more influence for the wealthy, and Rhode Island may have to change its laws to match the new federal standards.

The ruling by the Supreme Court on Wednesday was not unexpected, observers say.

"The court has been very consistent ever since Justice Roberts and Justice Alito joined the court, they've struck down every campaign finance statute that's come before them," said Jared Goldstein, a professor at the Roger Williams University law school.

This decision lifts entirely the limit of total spending, or aggregate spending, during any election cycle. It doesn't change the individual limits.

"The good thing about this decision is that you will know who is writing checks to which candidates for how much money in a way that you don't right now when they give to those super PACs that fund candidates. So that super PAC issue, I think, goes down a little bit. Now we'll have more money and more people giving, but you're going to know who they are," said NBC 10 political analyst Wendy Schiller.

Rhode Island's Board of Elections is looking into whether the federal ruling will invalidate state law, which says no more than $10,000 can be donated to candidates or political action committees in one election year.

But it seems likely that law will be challenged or changed. Goldstein said this trend probably won't stop with this decision.

"The strong implication of the decision yesterday is that much of our campaign finance law will be held to be unconstitutional unless there's a change in the composition of the court," Goldstein said.

Board of Elections Executive Director Robert Kando said there's a good chance the board will review the state's aggregate spending law at its next meeting, later this month.