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October 28, 2013 at 2:34 PM

No on 522 breaks fundraising record for Washington initiative campaigns

First, it smashed the record for fundraising by a campaign opposing a statewide ballot measure.

Now, No on 522 holds the title for most money raised by any initiative campaign in Washington state history, period.

Bankrolled by out-of-state biochemical corporations and food industry heavyweights, the campaign trying to defeat GMO labeling Initiative 522 on Saturday broke the $21 million mark in total contributions, the latest campaign reports to Washington’s Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) show.

In the process, the No camp surpassed Washington’s previous high mark of money raised by any initiative campaign.  The old record — set in 2011 by Costco-backed supporters of the liquor-privatizing Initiative 1183 — was $20.1 million.

The No on 522 campaign reached record ground fueled by last week’s contributions of $3.8 million from the food-industry PAC the Grocery Manufacturers Association, and $460,000 from biochemical giant Dupont Pioneer.

With $11 million in cash contributions so far, the GMA remains the No campaign’s top donor.  The food-industry group — financed by Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, General Mills, NestleUSA and Conagra Foods among others — only revealed its own funders this month after Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson sued it for campaign disclosure violations.

Other top donors to the No campaign include Monsanto ($4.8 million), DuPont Pioneer ($3.9 million), Bayer Cropscience and Dow Agrosciences ($592,000 each).

Meantime, the Yes on I-522 Committee has raised $6.3 million, including $1.7 million from California-based organic soapmaker, Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, as well as thousands of individual donations.

When combining totals for both campaigns, the $27.7 million in contributions raised so far in the I-522 race still places second all-time in Washington for collective money raised in a ballot-measure campaign. The 2011 liquor privatization initiative collectively raised $32.5 million.

Initiative 522 would require food producers to disclose on the front of food packages whether foods sold in retail stores were produced using genetically engineered ingredients.

Opponents contend the measure would unfairly impose labels on otherwise safe foods and lead to higher grocery costs, while supporters contend consumers have a right to know whether genetically engineered ingredients are in the groceries they buy.

The record campaign money has financed a barrage of advertisements against I-522 over the past month, helping the No campaign to whittle down what appeared to be a huge early advantage among voters favoring the measure.  Recent polling suggests the race is now a toss-up.

Heading into the final week before Election Day on Nov. 5, the No camp still has $7.9 million to spend, compared to about $900,000 on hand for the Yes side, PDC records show.

Most money raised by a statewide initiative campaign (for or against):

1. $21,411,785* No on Initiative 522 – Labeling genetically engineered food, 2013

2. $20,115,326 Yes on Initiative 1183 – Privatize liquor sales, 2011

3. $16,042,629 Yes on Initiative 1107 – End sales tax on candy & soda, 2010

4. $14,784,287 Yes on Referendum 74 – Same sex marriage, 2012

5. $12,351,656 No on Initiative 1183 – Privatize liquor sales, 2011

*As of 10/28/2013

Source: Washington state Public Disclosure Commission

Comments | More in 2014 elections | Topics: Initiative 522


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