In this 2016 photo, Grocery Manufacturers Association lawyer Matthew Gardner (right) talks with others, before making arguments in a case alleging that the food industry group violated state campaign disclosure laws in opposing a 2013 food labeling initiative, in Olympia. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, file)

In this 2016 photo, Grocery Manufacturers Association lawyer Matthew Gardner (right) talks with others, before making arguments in a case alleging that the food industry group violated state campaign disclosure laws in opposing a 2013 food labeling initiative, in Olympia. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, file)

Court upholds $18 million penalty in GMO labeling case

The Grocery Manufacturing Association was accused not disclosing where its contributions to the “No on 522” campaign came from.

By Andrew Hammond / The News Tribune

The Washington Court of Appeals has unanimously upheld at $18 million penalty against the Grocery Manufacturers Association in a campaign finance lawsuit brought by the state Attorney General’s Office.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s lawsuit against the Grocery Manufacturers Association goes back to 2013 when the organization was accused of collecting $14 million dollars from companies such as PepsiCo and Nestle, then contributing $11 million of that money to the “No on 522” campaign without disclosing where the money came from.

The money was listed as coming from GMA, not the actual donors.

Initiative 522 was unpopular with the food industry because, if passed, it would have required that foods and agricultural products offered for retail sale state “clearly and conspicuously” on the front of the package if they were genetically engineered or contained genetically engineered ingredients.

The initiative failed with 51 percent opposition.

“Dark money has no place in Washington elections,” Ferguson said in a statement. “This decision confirms that our courts take intentional violations of our campaign finance laws seriously. My office will continue to stand up for Washingtonians’ right to know who is influencing our elections.”

Internal GMA documents obtained as a result of Ferguson’s lawsuit revealed an intentional, systematic effort to conceal the true sources of the contributions to “No on 522.”

In April, the Washington State Supreme Court affirmed that GMA’s violations were intentional and reinstated the trial court’s $18 million penalty. GMA appealed to the courts, deeming that the penalty was “too excessive.”

Talk to us

More in Northwest

The Supreme Court in Washington D.C. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Supreme Court limits EPA in curbing power plant emissions

This impacts how the nation’s main anti-air pollution law can be used to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

NO CAPTION. Logo to accompany news of Washington state.
Washington state license plates prices increase July 1

The price of a new plate will rise from $10 to $50, and replacing a lost plate will increase from $10 to $30.

Hundreds gather to listen to a lineup of guest speakers during Snohomish County’s “Bans Off Our Bodies” rally Saturday, May 14, 2022, outside the county courthouse in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade; states can ban abortion

The decision is expected to lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states.

FILE - In this photo provided by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, a crane and boats are anchored next to a collapsed "net pen" used by Cooke Aquaculture Pacific to farm Atlantic Salmon near Cypress Island in Washington state on Aug. 28, 2017, after a failure of the nets allowed tens of thousands of the nonnative fish to escape. A Washington state jury on Wednesday, June 22, 2022, awarded the Lummi Indian tribe $595,000 over the 2017 collapse of the net pen where Atlantic salmon were being raised, an event that elicited fears of damage to wild salmon runs and prompted the Legislature to ban the farming of the nonnative fish. (David Bergvall/Washington State Department of Natural Resources via AP, File)
Jury awards $595,000 to Lummi tribe for salmon pen collapse

The tribe sued, saying the pen owner had not reimbursed the tribal government for its clean up effort.

FILE - Alaska Airlines planes are parked at gates with Mount Rainier in the background at sunrise, on March 1, 2021, at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle. A union has reached a deal Wednesday, June 22, 2022, with Seattle-based Alaska Airlines for a two-year contract extension that provides substantial raises for 5,300 gate agents, stores personnel and office staff, as well as for ramp workers who load cargo. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Alaska Airlines reaches contract deal with some workers

Raises for gate agents, stores personnel, office staff, as well as ramp workers who load cargo.

NO CAPTION. Logo to accompany news of Seattle.
Seattle facing $117 million revenue shortfall in 2023

The city’s budget chief says there’s no easy way to bridge the gap.

A view from the lower undeveloped part of the Flowery Trail neighborhood looking at spots where slash piles have been burned - outside Chewelah, Wash. (Erick Doxey / InvestigateWest)
Growing sprawl in state’s woods comes with high wildfire risk

Policymakers and homeowners are scrambling to manage the so-called “wildland-urban interface” to mitigate the threat.

The kids thought it was milk. It was actually floor sealant

In Juneau, containers of the chemical were stacked on the same pallet as boxes containing pouches of milk.

NO CAPTION. Logo to accompany news of Seattle.
Initiative to change Seattle elections heads toward ballot

The initiative would alter the way Seattle elects mayors, city attorneys and City Council members.

Lynnwood
Lynnwood climber supports first all-Black Mount Everest summit bid

Fred Campbell was part of the historic expedition, but got sick and had to turn back before the submit.

The A.J. Eisenberg Airport in Oak Harbor. (Karina Andrew / Whidbey News-Times)
Local pilot plans to buy Whidbey Island airport

Robert DeLaurentis, known as the “Zen Pilot,” submitted a letter of intent to purchase the A.J. Eisenberg Airport.