Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson amended its recent lawsuit against the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association to reflect millions more in contributions concealed from voters in the GMO labeling initiative campaign.
In Thurston County Superior Court, Ferguson increased the amount the state alleges the GMA collected from its members to oppose Initiative 522 from $7.2 million to $10.6 million. This is the largest amount the state has ever addressed in a campaign finance concealment case.
Initiative 522 was the measure on the Nov. 5 ballot requiring mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods, seeds and seed products. Voters rejected the measure by 51.75 percent.
The GMA, a Washington D.C. trade association representing more than 300 food, beverage and consumer product companies, was the largest donor to the No on 522 campaign.
On Oct. 16, the state filed a lawsuit alleging the GMA had solicited and collected roughly $7.2 million from its members, placing these funds in a special account used to oppose I-522. The organization did not report these funds to the PDC at the time it collected them from its members.
On Oct. 18, two days after the AG filed the lawsuit, the GMA registered a political committee and reported $7.2 million in contributions from its members.
In late October, the GMA Against I-522 campaign reported roughly $3.8 million more in contributions from its members, which it then spent on the No on 522 campaign.
The amended complaint also notes that the GMA could be found in violation of other provisions of the state’s campaign finance laws for failing to abide by the obligations of a political committee.
“Washington state voters demand transparency and openness in elections,” Ferguson said. “All sides must follow the rules by disclosing who their donors are and how much they are spending to advocate their views.”
This case will proceed on a regular trial schedule in 2014. The GMA has 60 days to respond to the original lawsuit and 60 days to respond to the amended lawsuit. Unless the case is resolved prior to trial, the state must prove the GMA violated Washington campaign finance laws. If the state proves the violations, the court will determine appropriate penalties.