TITLE 17
Elections

CHAPTER 17-25
Rhode Island Campaign Contributions and Expenditures Reporting

SECTION 17-25-3


   § 17-25-3  Definitions. – As used in this chapter, unless a different meaning clearly appears from the context:

   (1) "Business entity" means any corporation, whether for profit or not for profit, domestic corporation or foreign corporation, as defined in § 7-1.2-106, financial institution, cooperative, association, receivership, trust, holding company, firm, joint stock company, public utility, sole proprietorship, partnership, limited partnership, or any other entity recognized by the laws of the United States and/or the state of Rhode Island for the purpose of doing business. The term "business entity" shall not include a political action committee organized pursuant to this chapter or a political party committee or an authorized campaign committee of a candidate or office holder. The term "business entity" shall not include any exempt nonprofit as defined herein or any organization described in § 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, or any subsequent corresponding internal revenue code of the United States, as amended from time to time, for the purposes of chapter 17-25.3 of the general laws only.

   (2) "Candidate" means any individual who undertakes any action, whether preliminary or final, which is necessary under the law to qualify for nomination for election or election to public office, and/or any individual who receives a contribution or makes an expenditure, or gives his or her consent for any other person to receive a contribution or make an expenditure, with a view to bringing about his or her nomination or election to any public office, whether or not the specific public office for which he or she will seek nomination or election is known at the time the contribution is received or the expenditure is made and whether or not he or she has announced his or her candidacy or filed a declaration of candidacy at that time.

   (3) "Contributions" and "expenditures" include all transfers of money, credit or debit card transactions on-line or electronic payment systems such as "pay pal," paid personal services, or other thing of value to or by any candidate, committee of a political party, or political action committee or ballot question advocate. A loan shall be considered a contribution of money until it is repaid.

   (4) "Election" means any primary, general, or special election or town meeting for any public office of the state, municipality, or district or for the determination of any question submitted to the voters of the state, municipality, or district.

   (5) "Election cycle" means the twenty-four (24) month period commencing on January 1 of odd number years and ending on December 31 of even number years; provided, with respect to the public financing of election campaigns of general officers under §§ 17-25-19, 17-25-20, and 17-25-25, "election cycle" means the forty-eight (48) month period commencing on January 1 of odd numbered years and ending December 31 of even numbered years.

   (6) "In-Kind Contributions" means the monetary value of other things of value or paid personal services donated to, or benefiting, any person required to file reports with the board of elections.

   (7) "Other thing of value" means any item of tangible real or personal property of a fair market value in excess of one hundred dollars ($100).

   (8) "Paid personal services" means personal services of every kind and nature, the cost or consideration for which is paid or provided by someone other than the committee or candidate for whom the services are rendered, but shall not include personal services provided without compensation by persons volunteering their time.

   (9) "Person" means an individual, partnership, committee, association, corporation, union, charity and/or any other organization. The term "person" shall not include any exempt nonprofit as defined herein or any organization described in § 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, or any subsequent corresponding internal revenue code of the United States, as amended from time to time, for the purposes of chapter 17-25.3 of the general laws only.

   (10) "Political action committee" means any group of two (2) or more persons that accepts any contributions to be used for advocating the election or defeat of any candidate or candidates. Only political action committees that have accepted contributions from fifteen (15) or more persons in amounts of ten dollars ($10.00) or more within an election cycle shall be permitted to make contributions, and those committees must make contributions to at least five (5) candidates for state or local office within an election cycle.

   (11) "Public office" means any state, municipal, school, or district office or other position that is filled by popular election, except political party offices. "Political party offices" means any state, city, town, ward, or representative or senatorial district committee office of a political party or delegate to a political party convention, or any similar office.

   (12) "State" means state of Rhode Island.

   (13) "Testimonial affair" means an affair of any kind or nature including, but not limited to, cocktail parties, breakfasts, luncheons, dinners, dances, picnics, or similar affairs expressly and directly intended to raise campaign funds in behalf of a candidate to be used for nomination or election to a public office in this state, or expressly and directly intended to raise funds in behalf of any state or municipal committee of a political party, or expressly and directly intended to raise funds in behalf of any political action committee.

   (14) "Electioneering communication" means any print, broadcast, cable, satellite, or electronic media communication not coordinated, as set forth in § 17-25-23, with any candidate, authorized candidate campaign committee, or political party committee and which unambiguously identifies a candidate or referendum and is made either within sixty (60) days before a general or special election or town meeting for the office sought by the candidate or referendum; or thirty (30) days before a primary election, for the office sought by the candidate; and is targeted to the relevant electorate.

   (i) A communication which refers to a clearly identified candidate or referendum is "targeted to the relevant electorate" if the communication can be received by two thousand (2,000) or more persons in the district the candidate seeks to represent or the constituency voting on the referendum.

   (ii) Exceptions: The term "electioneering communication" does not include:

   (A) A communication appearing in a news story, commentary, or editorial distributed through the facilities of any broadcasting station, unless such facilities are owned or controlled by any political party, political committee, or candidate;

   (B) A communication which constitutes a candidate debate or forum conducted pursuant to regulations adopted by the board of elections or which solely promotes such a debate or forum and is made by or on behalf of the person sponsoring the debate or forum; or

   (C) A communication made by any business entity to its members, owners, stockholders, or employees;

   (D) A communication over the Internet, except for (I) Communications placed for a fee on the website of another person, business entity, or political action committee; and (II) Websites formed primarily for the purpose, or whose primary purpose is, to expressly advocate the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate or the passage or defeat of a referendum; or

   (E) Any other communication exempted under such regulations as the board of elections may promulgate (consistent with the requirements of this paragraph) to ensure the appropriate implementation of this paragraph.

   (15) "Independent expenditure" means an expenditure which, when taken as a whole, expressly advocates the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate, or the passage or defeat of a referendum, or amounts to the functional equivalent of such express advocacy, and is in no way coordinated, as set forth in § 17-25-23, with any candidate's campaign, authorized candidate committee, or political party committee. An expenditure amounts to the functional equivalent of express advocacy if it can only be interpreted by a reasonable person as advocating the election, passage, or defeat of a candidate or referendum, taking into account whether the communication mentions a candidate or referendum and takes a position on a candidate's character, qualifications, or fitness for office. An independent expenditure is not a contribution to that candidate or committee.

   (i) Exceptions: The term "independent expenditure" does not include:

   (A) A communication appearing in a news story, commentary, or editorial distributed through the facilities of any broadcasting station, unless such facilities are owned or controlled by any political party, political committee, or candidate;

   (B) A communication which constitutes a candidate debate or forum conducted pursuant to regulations adopted by the board of elections or which solely promotes such a debate or forum and is made by or on behalf of the person sponsoring the debate or forum;

   (C) A communication made by any business entity to its members, owners, stockholders, or employees;

   (D) A communication over the Internet, except for (I) Communications placed for a fee on the website of another person, business entity, or political action committee; and (II) Websites formed primarily for the purpose, or whose primary purpose is, to expressly advocate the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate or the passage or defeat of a referendum; or

   (E) Any other communication exempted under such regulations as the board of elections may promulgate (consistent with the requirements of this paragraph) to ensure the appropriate implementation of this paragraph.

   (16) "Covered transfer" means any transfer or payment of funds by any person, business entity or political action committee to another person, business entity, or political action committee if the person, business entity, or political action committee making the transfer: (i) Designates, requests, or suggests that the amounts be used for independent expenditures or electioneering communications or making a transfer to another person for the purpose of making or paying for such independent expenditures or electioneering communications; (ii) Made such transfer or payment in response to a solicitation or other request for a transfer or payment for the making of or paying for independent expenditures or electioneering communications or making a transfer to another person for the purpose of marking or paying for such independent expenditures or electioneering communications; (iii) Engaged in discussions with the recipient of the transfer or payment regarding independent expenditures or electioneering communications or making a transfer to another person for the purpose of marking or paying for such independent expenditures or electioneering communications; or (iv) Made independent expenditures or electioneering communications in an aggregate amount of five thousand dollars ($5,000) or more during the two (2) year period ending on the date of the transfer or payment, or knew or had reason to know that the person receiving the transfer or payment made such independent expenditures or electioneering communications in such an aggregate amount during that two (2) year period.

   (A) Exceptions: The term "covered transfer" does not include:

   (I) A transfer or payment made by a person, business entity or political action committee in the ordinary course of any trade or business conducted by the person, business entity or political action committee or in the form of investments made by the person, business entity or political action committee; or

   (II) A transfer or payment made by a person, business entity or political action committee if the person, business entity or political action committee making the transfer prohibited, in writing, the use of such transfer or payment for independent expenditures, electioneering communications, or covered transfers and the recipient of the transfer or payment agreed to follow the prohibition and deposited the transfer or payment in an account which is segregated from any account used to make independent expenditures, electioneering communications, or covered transfers.

   (17) For the purposes of chapter 17-25.3 of the general laws, "donation" means all transfers of money, credit or debit card transactions on-line or electronic payment systems such as "pay pal," paid personal services, or other thing of value to or by any person, business entity, or political action committee. A loan shall be considered a donation of money until it is repaid.

   (18) For the purposes of chapter 17-25.3 of the general laws, "donor" means a person, business entity, or political action committee that makes a donation.

   (19) "Exempt nonprofit" means any organization described in § 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code that spends an aggregate annual amount of no more than ten percent (10%) of its annual expenses or no more than fifteen thousand dollars ($15,000), whichever is less, on independent expenditures, electioneering communications, and covered transfers as defined herein and certifies the same to the board of elections seven (7) days before and after a primary election and seven (7) days before and after a general or special election.

   (20) For purposes of chapter 17-25.3 of the general laws, "referendum" means the same as the definition set forth in § 17-5-1 of the general laws.

History of Section.
(P.L. 1974, ch. 298, § 1; P.L. 1981, ch. 188, § 1; P.L. 1984, ch. 2, § 1; P.L. 1988, ch. 420, § 3; P.L. 1992, ch. 21, § 1; P.L. 1994, ch. 78, § 2; P.L. 2001, ch. 176, § 2; P.L. 2005, ch. 36, § 14; P.L. 2005, ch. 72, § 14; P.L. 2006, ch. 174, § 1; P.L. 2006, ch. 292, § 1; P.L. 2006, ch. 582, § 1; P.L. 2006, ch. 588, § 1; P.L. 2012, ch. 446, § 2.)