Washington AG reports progress on lawsuit against grocers group

By Bryan Cohen | Oct 31, 2013

OLYMPIA, Wash. (Legal Newsline) - Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced Wednesday that the Grocery Manufacturers Association recently reported $3.8 million in additional contributions against a measure requiring mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods.

The GMA is a trade association based in Washington, D.C., that represents more than 300 food, beverage and consumer product companies. Ferguson filed a lawsuit against the GMA on October 16 alleging the association violated state campaign disclosure laws by collecting more than $7 million in a campaign against Initiative 522 while hiding the identities of the companies donating the money. I-522 is a measure before Washington voters on the Nov. 5 ballot that would require the mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods, seeds and seed products in the state.

Ferguson's lawsuit demanded that the GMA comply with state law by registering as a political committee and filing the required disclosure reports listing its donors and amounts contributed. The GMA registered Grocery Manufacturers Association Against I-522 with the Public Disclosure Commission on October 18 and produced information related to a portion of its members' contributions on that day.

Since the lawsuit was filed, GMA Against I-522 reported additional contributions totaling more than $3.8 million to the No on 522 campaign, including more than $2.9 million on October 24 and close to $877,500 on Friday. Ferguson alleges the subsequent contributions were not reported by the GMA when it submitted its disclosure of contributor members and the value of their contributions on Oct. 18. Ferguson is preparing to amend its complaint to increase the total amount allegedly concealed by GMA from $7.2 million to $11 million.

GMA has 60 days to respond to the original lawsuit and 60 days to respond to the amended lawsuit, if Ferguson's office files an amended suit.

Ferguson's office seeks penalties and other relief for the GMA's alleged failure to comply with state campaign finance laws.

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