SEATTLE -- Washington’s attorney general has filed a lawsuit accusing a food industry group of violating state campaign finance laws.
The office of Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a filing Wednesday that the Grocery Manufacturers Association improperly collected and spent more than $7 million while shielding the identities of contributors. The food industry has been working to defeat Initiative 522 that would require labeling on genetically modified foods.
Much of the money used in the campaign to oppose I-522 has come from the Grocery Manufacturers Association. Ferguson says the association improperly established a special account that would be used to oppose the initiative when the organization should have formed a separate political committee that would require increased disclosure.
"They knew what they were doing," says Ferguson, "In their written documents, they write that the purpose of this fund is to shield their members from criticism from the public for opposing 522."
Ferguson also claims he is not taking a position in the issue itself.
"If I did not bring this action, and wait until the election is over people would say wait a second Bob, you knew there was a violation, a serious violation of your campaign finance law yet you waited until the election was over. Isn't that influencing the election by not taking action?"
GMA Spokesperson Sean McBride issued the following statement this afternoon:
“The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) has been advised that the Attorney General has filed a complaint against the association related to state campaign disclosure law and the organization’s financial support of the ‘No on 522’ campaign.
“We are looking into the complaint and the specific allegations it contains. GMA takes great care to understand and comply with all state election and campaign finance laws and is surprised to learn that the Washington State authorities viewed the association’s actions as improper.
“GMA will review its actions in Washington State and relevant statutes and continue to cooperate with state authorities to fully resolve the issue as promptly as possible.”
Voters will decide on I-522 next month.