Court of Appeals unanimously upholds $18M penalty against Grocery Manufacturers Association in AG’s campaign finance lawsuit

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

GMA intentionally shielded its members as the true source of campaign contributions

The Washington State Court of Appeals today unanimously upheld the $18 million penalty in Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s lawsuit against the Grocery Manufacturers Association over its intentional violations of Washington’s campaign finance laws.

GMA, a trade organization of large corporations, including PepsiCo, Inc, Nestle USA, Inc, and The Coca Cola Company, funneled millions of dollars into the state to oppose Initiative 522 without proper disclosure of the source of the funds, with the express intent to “shield individual companies from public disclosure and possible criticism.” GMA is now known as the Consumer Brands Association.

“Dark money has no place in Washington elections,” Ferguson said. “This decision confirms that our courts take intentional violations of our campaign finance laws seriously. My office will continue to stand up for Washingtonians’ right to know who is influencing our elections.”

“The Public Disclosure Commission is pleased to see courts continue to confirm that Washington state’s strong campaign-finance laws have serious consequences for those who attempt to conceal the source of campaign funding,” PDC Chair David Ammons said.

Internal GMA documents obtained as a result of Ferguson’s lawsuit revealed an intentional, systematic effort to conceal the true sources of those contributions to “No on 522.”

In one GMA Executive Committee meeting, the Executive Vice President for Government Affairs noted that the fund would “shield individual companies from public disclosure and possible criticism.”

In April of this year, the Washington State Supreme Court affirmed that GMA’s violations were intentional and reinstated the trial court’s $18 million penalty. It remanded the case back to the state Court of Appeals to consider GMA’s argument that the penalty is excessive under the state and federal constitutions. Today’s ruling confirms the penalty is not excessive.

More information HERE


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