Ruling Against Pro-GMO Lobby Highlights Dark Money’s “Egregious” Role in State Ballot Fights

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Lauren McCauley, Common Dreams, November 3, 2016

Amid an election season where corporations are once again spending “vast unholy sums to defeat popular initiatives,” a major food industry group has been found guilty of intentionally violating campaign finance laws by shielding its donors during Washington state’s contentious 2013 GMO labeling fight.

Thurston County Superior Court Judge Anne Hirsch on Wednesday ordered (pdf) a $18 million penalty against the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), the food industry’s powerful lobbying arm, which “is believed to constitute the largest campaign finance judgment in United States history,” according to the state Attorney General’s office.

“The People of Washington have directed that our state’s public campaign finance laws by interpreted liberally, in order to promote transparency and full disclosure to the voters,” Judge Hirsch wrote in the ruling.

The determination of “intention” and penalty followed a March ruling, when the court found that the GMA had “concealed the true source” of the $11 million the group spent opposing Initiative 522, which was narrowly defeated 52-48 percent.

“Time after time, our nation’s largest food and agrichemical companies show that they have little integrity, and that they are willing to lie, cheat and launder money to keep us in the dark about what is on our food,” Gary Ruskin, co-founder and co-director of the food transparency group U.S. Right to Know, told Common Dreams.

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