GMA Billed for Campaign Finance Case

The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) is continuing to appeal its conviction for violating Washington state campaign finance laws over its opposition to the state’s GMO labeling mandate, Initiative 522, amid receiving the state’s legal bill for prosecuting the case.

A Thurston County, Wash., Superior Court judge ordered GMA to pay nearly $1.1 million in costs and fees stemming from Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s campaign finance lawsuit. GMA was penalized $18 million for violations of Washington state law in what Ferguson’s office says is the largest campaign finance judgment in history.

“The awarding of costs and fees is part of the normal process of a case. GMA has filed notice of appeal of the decision against it and the excessive penalty, and will be filing its brief citing the reasons that the judgment and fine were in error,” Roger Lowe, GMA’s EVP of strategic communications, told PG. “GMA earlier won a part of its challenge to the Washington state law's requirement of donations of $10 from at least 10 state donors, as a judge found that to be unconstitutional. GMA has been awarded fees and costs from the state of Washington for that part of the case.”

Judge Anne Hirsch ordered GMA to pay the state’s requested attorney fees, which she held to be “reasonable and appropriate,” as well as litigation and investigation costs, according to a press release from Ferguson’s office. Hirsch rejected GMA’s three challenges to the state’s bill.

“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,” Washington, D.C.-based GMA said last November when the original ruling was handed down. “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.”

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.

“Attorney General Ferguson’s continuing crusade against GMA has been a centerpiece of his fundraising appeals and re-election effort,” the trade group said last November. “GMA intends to vigorously pursue its legal options to correct this injustice.”

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds