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Fined for Trying to Find Out Who's Funding Anti-GMO Labeling Campaign?

In Washington's battle over I-522, group loses legal challenge for disclosure while millions continue to pour in

Andrea Germanos, staff writer

(Photo: Alexis Baden-Mayer/cc/flickr)

A group fighting for disclosure over the millions being poured into the campaign to defeat Washington's GMO labeling initiative lost their legal challenge on Friday.  Instead, the group got slapped with a $10,000 fine.

The fight centers around the state's I-522, which would require genetically modified food and seeds to be labeled as such.

In their legal challenge against the No on 522 Campaign and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) submitted in September, the newly formed, pro-GMO labeling group Moms for Labeling state that the No Campaign "illegally conceals the identity of the campaign's donors" and that donations to the campaign are "laundered through the Grocery Manufacturers Association," and, as such, the GMA, whose members include Nestlé, Welch's and Del Monte, is acting illegally as a political committee.

The GMA made a $5 million contribution to the No Campaign at the end of September, bringing its total to the campaign to over $7.2 million. So far, the No Campaign has raised over $17 million, with other big donations coming from some of the same groups that successfully fought California's GMO-labeling initiative last year. In comparison, the Yes on 522 Campaign has raised just under $4.7 million so far.

On Friday, a judge dismissed Moms for Labeling's lawsuit.


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Joel Connelly reported in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that Thurston County

Judge Wickham ruled that pro-522 plaintiffs — Moms for Labeling is a newly formed group — violated state filing procedures by not waiting 55 days after giving notice of an action to sue. Under the circumstances, only the state attorney general can bring suit charging a violation of the state’s Public Disclosure Act.

In addition to having their lawsuit dismissed by the judge, the GMA and No on 522 Campaign scored a victory from a counter-attack they had launched when Wickham issued Moms for Labeling a fine of $10,000 plus attorneys' fees.  The groups had used a state law, the Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation or SLAPP, which, as the Bellingham Herald explained, "was designed to protect parties against lawsuits that are harassing, intimidating and chill the speech of defendants."

The No on 522 Campaign called the legal challenge a "frivolous and baseless lawsuit brought for no other reason than to try to generate media headlines in the heat of a political campaign," and said it was "legal harassment, pure and simple.”

"I think it is outrageous that we are being accused of harassing big out of state corporations when really what we are trying to do as Moms for Labeling is, one, find out what is in the food we are putting on the table for our families, and two, (learn) who is paying for this campaign. It's as simple as that," the Olympian reported Pam Johnson, a member of Moms for Labeling, as saying after the ruling. "As the decision makers we have a right to know specifically who is behind this campaign," she added.


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