Grocery group claims its civil rights violated by Washington campaign-finance laws

The Seattle TimesJanuary 13, 2014 

The Grocery Manufacturers Association has given $5 million to the campaign to defeat a Washington state ballot measure requiring labeling of genetically modified foods. (Staff screenshot)

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson is raising alarms over a grocery-industry group’s challenge of Washington campaign-finance laws.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) is trying to invalidate some state restrictions on spending by out-of-state political committees, arguing the laws violate its civil and constitutional rights. The arguments were made in legal filings this month combating the state’s effort to penalize GMA for attempting to conceal donors to its "http://blogs.seattletimes.com/politicsnorthwest/2013/10/28/no-on-522-breaks-fundraising-record-for-washington-initiative-campaigns/">record-setting spending campaign against a food-labeling initiative last year.

“They did not just say ‘We haven’t broken the law.’ What they’re saying is some of your campaign finance laws are unconstitutional. That raises the stakes,” Ferguson said in an interview Monday.

The case stems from GMA’s big-spending opposition to last year’s Initiative 522, which sought to require labeling of foods containing genetically engineered products. Ferguson sued the group in October, alleging it illegally concealed the identities of donors to a $10.6 million fund opposing I-522.

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