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Policy: Law

Judge denies Grocery Manufacturers Association’s motion to dismiss Wash. AG’s lawsuit

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Washington,Law,Legal Newsline
Ferguson

Ferguson

OLYMPIA, Wash. (Legal Newsline) – Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced on Friday that a court ruling will allow the state’s case against the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) to move forward.

Thurston County Superior Court Judge Christine Schaller ruled the case against the GMA could go forward, rejecting the GMA’s motion to dismiss the case on constitutional grounds.

“Today’s ruling is an important step in our work to hold the Grocery Manufacturers Association accountable for the largest campaign finance concealment case in Washington history,” Ferguson said. “We intend to send a strong message to all: If you want to engage in political campaigns in Washington, you have to play by the rules.”

Ferguson sued the GMA in October, alleging it violated Washington’s campaign finance disclosure laws when it solicited and collected approximately $10.6 million from its members, placed the funds in a defense of brand account and used the funds to oppose Initiative 522. GMA allegedly used the funds to oppose the measure without disclosing the true source of the contributions.

I-522 was an unsuccessful measure before Washington voters in November that would have required mandatory labeling of genetically engineered seeds, foods and seed products in the state. The GMA, a Washington, D.C.-based trade association, was the largest single donor to contribute to the No on 522 campaign.

In January, the GMA filed a countersuit alleging the state unconstitutionally enforced campaign finance laws and requested the judge dismiss the case. Schaller ruled the state’s campaign finance laws requiring the formation of a political committee and associated disclosures were applied constitutionally. The case will move forward on its merits.

Schaller also ruled that Washington’s law requiring the GMA to secure $10 in donations from 10 separate Washington voters as part of its political committee before donating to another political committee was unconstitutional. Ferguson’s office will review the ruling with his legal team to determine next steps.

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