Friday Jolt: AG Ferguson Outs Secret Anti-GMO-Labeling Donors
Washington attorney general Bob Ferguson outs corporate donors to anti-GMO labeling campaign.
We wrote about this in today's Fizz, but now that the Grocery Manufacturers Association has actually registered its anti-GMO-labeling political committee with the state, as AG Bob Ferguson's complaint forced them to do today, listing the actual names of the donors and the amounts they've all donated against I-522—PepsiCo in for $1.6 million, for example—we're making Ferguson today's big winner.
Using his subpoena power, something that wasn't available to the activists who filed the original complaint against the Grocery Manufacturers—Ferguson uncovered strong evidence that the GMA executed an intentional scheme to sidestep Washington state election law that requires groups raising money for a specific political campaign to reveal the donors.
Here's the damning passage from Ferguson's complaint (bolds ours):
In a February 18, 2013 memorandum to the GMA Board, GMA’s Chief Executive Officer Pamela G. Bailey proposed a cost estimate for the multi-pronged approach to labeling issues, which included the cost to “fight Washington State Ballot Measure” in 2013. CEO Bailey also included in her memorandum the establishment of a separate GMA fund that would “allow for greater planning for the funds to combat current threats and better shield individual companies from the attack that provide funding for specific efforts.” The fund would allow GMA to be identified as the source of funding for efforts that included defeating Initiative 522.
GMA named the fund the “Defense of Brand Strategic Account” (“Account”) and determined that it would be funded from an assessment to GMA members separate from their normal association dues. The Account would be segregated from the other GMA funds. GMA expressed its intent that GMA’s opposition to a mandatory labeling program would be paid for from the Account.
(If the GMA had simply been using money from it regular general fund from association dues, it wouldn't have had to register as a separate political committee and reveal its donors. Until Ferguson forced their hand, the GMA was surreptitiously funneling its anti-522 fundraising to the No on 522 campaign, which merely listed $7.2 million from the GMA without listing which GMA members had kicked in.)
Scary precedent: Without Ferguson's smoking gun, the judge may still have ruled against the activists—preventing the discovery phase that would have clearly proven the whistleblower claims.
Liberal attorney Knoll Lowney, who filed the initial complaint on behalf of "Moms for Labeling," a crew of activists supporting I-522, only had whistleblower testimony backing up the allegation that the GMA had a special anti-522 fund. Lowney could have eventually gotten the damning documents that Ferguson got if the case had gone forward. However, it never got to that point because the judge dismissed the case on technical grounds.
It's a bit of a scary precedent, though, that Lowney didn't have the info that Ferguson did. Without Ferguson's smoking gun, the judge may still have ruled against the activists—preventing the discovery phase that would have clearly proven the whistleblower claims.
Once listed as $7.2 million from the GMA on the No on 522 report, today the GMA itself listed its donors. Here's the list and the amounts (top five donors bolded):
Pinnacle Foods Group LLC $120,846
The J.M. Smucker Company $241,091
Rich Products Corporation $24,049
General Mills, Inc. $598,819
PepsiCo, Inc. $1,620,899
Bunge North America, inc. $94,993
Bumble Bee Foods, LLC $36,073
Bush Brothers & Company $16, 233
Moody Dunbar, Inc. $1,804
Dean Foods Company $120,245
Kellogg Company $221,852
Nestlé USA, Inc. $1,052,743
ConAgra Foods $285,281
Bimbo Bakeries USA $94,693
Welch Foods, Inc. $28,859
Knouse Foods Cooperative, Inc. $14,429
Bruce Foods Corporation $3,006
Abbott Nutrition $127,459
Campbell Soup Company $265,140
Del Monte Foods Company $86,576
Sunny Delight Beverages Company $21,043
Shearer’s Foods, Inc. $25,251
Mondelez Global LLC $144,895
Land O’Lakes, inc. $99,803
The Coca-Cola Company $1,047,332
The Hillshire Brands Company $97,398
The Hershey Company $248,305
Hormel Foods Corporation $52,908
Clement Pappas & Company, Inc. $21,043
McCormick & Company, Inc. $102,208
Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc. $55,313
FlowersFoods, Inc. $141,288
Cargill, Inc. $98,601
The Clorox Company $12,024