Friday, March 18, 2016

Opponents of GMO Labeling Broke Washington's Campaign Finance Law

GMO Labeling opponents broke lawA court in Washington has ruled that the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) violated the state's finance disclosure law when it funneled millions of dollars in dark money from its major corporate members to the campaign that defeated a 2013 ballot initiative to label food containing genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

The GMA could face up to a $33 million fine if a trial court determines that members of its staff knew they were breaking the law when they attempted to hide the identities of processed food companies opposed to the ballot initiative, which would have required special labels for grocery items containing GMO ingredients.
In a summary judgment released on Friday, a judge found that the GMA failed to disclose the corporate donors in paperwork required by state law, with the intent of shielding the donors' identities from public view and eliminating their campaign finance filing requirements.

The ruling points to internal GMA records revealing that the trade group set up a strategic "defense of brands" account to collect anonymous donations from several major food firms while "shielding individual members" from public "scrutiny." GMA staff also advised member companies on how to dodge questions from the media about the money.
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