The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA)—the world’s largest trade association for food, beverages and consumer products—violated “the spirit and letter” of Washington’s campaign-finance disclosure laws by trying to hide the identities of corporations that poured millions into a campaign to defeat a 2013 food-labeling initiative, a Washington Superior Court judge ruled Friday.
Initiative 522 would have required the labeling of genetically modified (GMOs) foods, seeds and seed products in Washington state and was narrowly defeated. As it happens, the GMA was the largest single donor to the “No on 522” campaign, spending a record $22 million to stop the measure, according to The Seattle Times.
“There is one, and only one, reasonable inference that can be drawn from the facts before this court: that the GMA intentionally took steps to create and then hide the true source of the funds … from the voting public of Washington state,” Thurston County Superior Court Judge Anne Hirsch wrote in a pretrial ruling.
The case, State v. Grocery Manufacturers Association, was filed in October 2013 by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson against the powerful food industry group. According to a news release from Ferguson’s office, the GMA raised $14 million from its members in solicitations for a special “Defense of Brands” fund, above and beyond regular member dues.
In 2013, the top 10 contributors to GMA’s Defense of Brands account and their contributions (as of Dec. 3, 2013) were:
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