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Lawsuit Challenging Transparency In Political Donations Could Soon Be Resolved

Anti-GMO protest at the Gates Foundation in Seattle.
Tom Paulson
Anti-GMO protest at the Gates Foundation in Seattle.

Two lawsuits that stem from the 2013 election involving Washington state and the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association, could soon be resolved in a Thurston County courtroom

The state sued the trade group, also known as GMA, in late 2013 after the state said the organization knowingly concealed the source of millions of dollars used to fight voter initiative I-522, which would have required the labeling of genetically modified food.

More that $20 million was spent on the "NO I-522" campaign and the initiative was ultimately defeated.

Washington state’s Attorney General Bob Ferguson said it was the largest amount of money ever concealed in a Washington state election.

“There’s no limit to how much these folks can donate to the campaign, and they donated millions. It’s about the transparency.  And the courts have allowed that, to let state laws have transparency on what your donations are,” said Ferguson.     

After the state sued the trade group for violating the rules of the state's Public Disclosure Commission, the Grocery Manufacturing Association revealed the names of the large food companies that contributed.


Nestle, Pepsico, Dupont and Coca-Cola were some of the companies that gave millions to an umbrella organization created by GMA called the “Defense of Brand” fund.


Eventually, GMA  filed its own suit against the state arguing that Washington's laws are unconstitutional. Now the two sides are asking a judge to resolve the case. A hearing is scheduled next month.  

Jennifer Wing is a former KNKX reporter and producer who worked on the show Sound Effect and Transmission podcast.