Washington State sues food industry group for hiding companies funding opposition to GMO labeling
Washington State’s Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed suit alleging that the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) violated the state’s campaign disclosure laws. Ferguson alleges the GMA illegally collected and spent more than $7 million while shielding the identity of its contributors, which included major food companies. The funds were spent to oppose Washington State’s GMO labeling initiative, I-522.
“Truly fair elections demand all sides follow the rules by disclosing who their donors are and how much they are spending to advocate their views,” Ferguson said.
GMA represents more than 300 food, beverage and consumer product companies, and is the biggest donor to the No on I-522 campaign.
GMA shielded donors following a backlash against major food companies such as General Mills, Kellogg’s, PepsiCo, and others after they openly funded opposition to California’s GMO labeling initiative Proposition 37 last year.
To prevent a similar backlash, GMA decided to set up a slush fund to launder money donated by major food companies, calling it the “Defense of Brand Strategic Account.”
The fund was proposed by GMA chief executive Pamela Bailey who said it would “allow for greater planning for the funds to combat current threats and better shield individual companies from attack that provide funding for specific efforts.”
Ferguson’s suit forced GMA to establish a political committee and reveal the names of companies that have donated to GMA’s slush fund.
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