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GMA Aims to Fight $18M Campaign Finance Fine

The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) has pledged to fight a court ruling allowing the Washington state attorney general to fine the trade group $18 million for allegedly violating campaign finance law by actively opposing the state’s GMO labeling initiative.

GMA believes that there is no basis in law or fact to support this unprecedented, inequitable and clearly excessive penalty – nearly 18 times higher than any other Washington State public disclosure fine,” the Washington, D.C.-based organization said in a statement. “The court’s decision ignores uncontradicted testimony and uncontroverted evidence that GMA reasonably believed, after being advised by multiple outside attorneys, that it was complying at all times with Washington state law.”

A county judge in Washington ruled Monday ruled the state’s case against GMA could move forward, rejecting GMA’s motion to dismiss the case on constitutional grounds, according to published reports.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson sued GMA in October 2013, charging the group with violating Washington’s campaign finance disclosure laws when it collected about $10.6 million from its member companies to bankroll its campaign against Initiative 522, without disclosing the source of individual contributions.

GMA filed its own lawsuit In January 2014, seeking a dismissal by alleging the state had unconstitutionally enforced campaign finance laws against it. The judge rules that Washington law requires the formation of a political committee and associated disclosures were constitutionally applied, according to published reports.

For its part, GMA said its decision to disclose the association itself, rather that its members, as a contributor to its “No on 522” campaign “was at most an inadvertent technical violation of the state’s vague and complex disclosure law that was being handled as a routine matter by the Public Disclosure Commission until Attorney General Ferguson seized control shortly before the 2013 election to further his personal political ambitions,” the trade group said. “Attorney General Ferguson’s continuing crusade against GMA has been a centerpiece of his fundraising appeals and re-election effort. GMA intends to vigorously pursue its legal options to correct this injustice.”

President Obama has since signed into law a national standard for GMO labeling, rendering individual state initiatives moot.



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