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Politics Northwest

The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

Topic: GMO labeling

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October 16, 2013 at 2:21 PM

Attorney General sues grocery association, alleging campaign-finance violations

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit today against the Grocery Manufacturers Association, alleging the group illegally collected and spent more than $7 million to oppose Initiative 522, the measure requiring labeling of genetically modified foods.

Ferguson’s lawsuit, filed in Thurston County Superior Court, said the Washington D.C.-based trade association solicited big money from its members specifically for the anti-GMO-labeling campaign, yet illegally concealed the identity of those donors from the public by failing to register and file reports as a political committee.

“In our view it’s a clear violation. It’s an important violation,” Ferguson said at a news conference in Seattle.

Ferguson said unless the GMA immediately discloses its donors, his office will ask a judge for a temporary restraining order to force the grocery association to register as a political committee and reveal its donors so that voters will have the information as they cast their ballots for or against I-522. He added the state will seek civil penalties and attorney’s fees from the group.

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Comments | More in 2014 elections, Politics Northwest | Topics: Attorney General Bob Ferguson, campaign finance, GMO labeling

October 4, 2013 at 6:22 PM

Judge tosses lawsuit, fines plaintiffs who accused No on I-522 campaign of violations

A Thurston County judge today dismissed a lawsuit filed against the No on I-522 campaign and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, and slapped the plaintiffs who’d brought the case with a fine.

Initiative 522, which is on the November ballot, would require the labeling of foods with genetically engineered ingredients. Opponents of the measure have raised more than $17.2 million, the most ever raised to defeat an initiative in the state.

Last month, a group of I-522 supporters called Moms for Labeling, filed a lawsuit alleging the initiative opponents were illegally failing to disclose who was funding the ‘No’ campaign. The lawsuit said the grocery association was acting as a political committee to solicit and “launder” money from big-business interests whose identities were being illegally concealed from voters.

But that lawsuit was tossed today by Thurston County Superior Court Judge Christopher Wickham, who ruled the lawsuit was filed prematurely without abiding by a mandatory 45-day waiting period for such claims.

The judge also fined the plaintiffs $10,000 and ordered them to pay the defendants’ attorneys fees under an anti-SLAPP law originally meant to shield citizens from harassing corporate lawsuits.

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Comments | More in 2014 elections | Topics: GMO labeling, Initiative 522