The Grocery Manufacturers Association is laundering money for big food retailers that don’t want bad publicity associated with big donations against Initiative 522, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Thurston County Superior Court by a group called Moms for Labeling.
“The GMA has made a special appeal to its members in the form of a voluntary special assessment to fund the No on 522 campaign,” the suit said.
The ballot measure would require labeling of genetically modified crops and seeds, with some exceptions, sold in Washington state. The food industry and agribusiness spent $46 million to (narrowly) defeat a similar measure in California last year.
They have so far raised more than $11 million for the No on 522 campaign. But there is a difference.
Individual companies spent heavily in the campaign against California’s Proposition 37. Pepsico gave $2.14 million, Coca-Cola donated $1.455 million, Nestle came in for $1.315 million, Kraft spent $1.64 million, with Heinz and Campbell Soup each giving $500,000.
The companies’ names have not yet appeared in No on 522 filings. But the Grocery Manufacturers Association has donated $2.2 million to the anti-522 campaign, far more than it gave to the No-on-37 campaign in California.
The No on 522 campaign “illegally conceals the identity of the campaign’s donors,” charges the Moms for Labeling lawsuit. “Donations to the (anti) Initiative 522 campaign are being laundered through the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the world’s largest association of food, beverage and consumer products companies.”
Supporters of the measure have collected about $3.5 million. They were aided last week by Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream co-founder Jerry Greenfield, who toured the state with an ice cream truck and campaign literature.
Under Washington’s public disclosure law, any organization that “bundles” contributions must declare itself as a political action committee. Moms for Labeling is citing underground industry sources to support its claim that the Grocery Manufacturers Association is fronting for the companies that gave heavily in California last year.
Some familiar actors are appearing on the 522 stage.
Moms for Labeling was incorporated earlier this week, and is represented by the law firm of Smith & Lowney. In 2012, the firm represented women in a highly publicized — by Democrats — lawsuit that challenged Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna. The GOP gubernatorial candidate made Washington a plaintiff in legal action to overturn the Affordable Care Act.
Attorney Knoll Lowney won an earlier action brought against the Building Industry Association of Washington for allegedly co-mingling accounts in its multi-million-dollar 2008 advertising campaign aimed at defeating Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire.
Republican faces are popping up — on-air — in the No on 522 campaign.
Former Attorney General Ken Eikenberry is featured in one TV spot. Eikenberry is a former two-time Republican State Chairman. A second No on 522 spot displays former State Agriculture Director Dan Newhouse. Newhouse is a former Republican state representative, whose father Irv Newhouse was a GOP lawmaker for 34 years.
A third spot features Brenda Alford, identified by Publicola as a “family farmer.”
Alford is a former Franklin County Republican Chairman, longtime activist — she picketed Vice President Al Gore in 2000 when he dedicated the Hanford Reach National Monument — and contributor to such causes as the Bush-Cheney campaign and U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings.
by: Joel Connelly, Seattle PI