SEATTLE — Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced Wednesday that his office is filing a suit against the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) for violation of the state’s campaign disclosure law.
Ferguson alleges the GMA skirted the rules in its $7.2 million contribution to the “No on 522” campaign and that the association illegally collected and spent the monies while shielding the identify of its contributors.
“When Washington state voters overwhelming approved Initiative 276 in 1972, they voiced their desire for transparency and openness in elections,” Ferguson said. “Truly fair elections demand all sides follow the rules by disclosing who their donors are and how much they are spending to advocate their views.”
The 522 ballot initiative over labeling genetically engineered food has raised more money than any other campaign in the state, the Seattle Times
reported. Opponents of the measure were said to have raised $17.2 million, while proponents of the measure had raised $4.8 million.
Overall, the monies invested on each side of the initiative has made it the second-costliest in state history, the Times reported. The previous record for money spent on a ballot initiative was set in 2011 by opponents of liquor sales privatization.
The GMA, based in Washington, D.C., represents more than 300 food, beverage and consumer companies and is the largest donor to the “No on 522” campaign.
Ferguson’s lawsuit compels GMA to register with the state’s Public Disclosure Commission and file disclosure statements. In a statement, Ferguson also said he is prepared to seek a temporary restraining order that would order GMA to immediately comply with state disclosure laws.
Civil penalties, costs of investigation and other fees are also being sought by Ferguson’s office.
California was the first state to propose labeling genetically modified foods in the November 2012 election. The measure failed. You can read more about that from CNN here.