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Attorney General's case against Grocery Manufacture Association goes to court

Scales of justice
Scales of justice
Photo by Bruno Vincent/Getty Images

Today, Thurston County Superior Court Judge Christine Schalle refused to dismiss the Washington Attorney General's (AG) case against the Grocery Manufacturer's Association (GMA) for campaign finance concealment in the fight over I-522, the initiative to label genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The largest concealment case in state history is now going to court.

Last October AG Bob Ferguson filed a suit against the GMA because they collected approximately 10.6 million from their members and used the money to defeat I-522. The GMA placed the money in a special fund, attempting to evade Washington State finance disclosure laws. It is widely believed that the GMA was shielding donors from the backlash that occurred when these same companies contributed to defeat Proposition 37 in California the previous year.

In January, the GMA filed a counter-suit and asked for the case to be dismissed on “constitutional grounds.” Judge Schalle denied the motion and the case is moving forward. “Today’s ruling is an important step in our work to hold the Grocery Manufacturers Association accountable for the largest campaign finance concealment case in Washington history,” Ferguson said in a news release today. “We intend to send a strong message to all: If you want to engage in political campaigns in Washington, you have to play by the rules.”

Washington law also requires a political committee to secure $10 in donations from 10 individual, registered voters in the state. The GMA had trouble coming up with 10 registered voters who would give them $10, but the judge did find this requirement unconstitutional. Ferguson is looking into this part of the ruling.