April 16, 2020

Campaign finance disclosure scored a major victory Thursday with the state Supreme Court’s decision to uphold an $18 million penalty imposed against the Grocery Manufacturers Association for concealing the source of funds fueling its successful 2013 effort to defeat a citizen initiative to require labeling of genetically modified foods.

PDC Chair David Ammons welcomed the news that the Court upheld a trial court finding that the industry group intentionally violated the law in trying to evade public knowledge of its members’ spending against Initiative 522.

“The court’s decision sends a ringing message to any group that might try to circumvent Washington’s campaign finance laws,” Ammons said. “Voters have a right to know who the players are in a campaign – whether they support or oppose a ballot measure. And this case demonstrates the Commission’s crucial role in ensuring transparency on the part of those who spend money to influence voters.

“This is also a major victory for sunshine in our initiative process. There must be no secrecy or evasion in complying with Washington’s strong disclosure laws.”

PDC investigators Kurt Young and Phil Stutzman uncovered the documents that proved the GMA intentionally acted to shield from disclosure the individual companies who funded the fight against Initiative 522. The PDC reported its findings to the Attorney General’s Office, which filed a lawsuit the next day.

“This case demonstrates the strength of Washington’s robust campaign-finance enforcement and the effectiveness of our close partnership with our colleagues at the Attorney General’s Office,” PDC Executive Director Peter Lavallee said. “The PDC thanks them for their excellent advocacy and continued diligence in pursuit of our shared mission on behalf of Washingtonians.”

Read a timeline of the PDC investigation here.

Read more about the case here.

Read the Supreme Court ruling here.