Thurston County Superior Court Judge Christine Schaller today ruled the state’s case against the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) could move forward, rejecting the GMA’s motion to dismiss the case in its entirety on constitutional grounds.
“Today’s ruling is an important step in our work to hold the Grocery Manufacturers Association accountable for the largest campaign finance concealment case in Washington history,” Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said. “We intend to send a strong message to all: If you want to engage in political campaigns in Washington, you have to play by the rules.”
Ferguson filed a lawsuit against the GMA in October 2013. The state alleged the GMA violated Washington’s campaign finance disclosure laws when it solicited and collected roughly $10.6 million from its members, placed those funds in a special “Defense of Brand” account and used them to oppose Initiative 522, all without disclosing the true source of the contributions.
In January 2014, the GMA filed a counter lawsuit alleging the state had unconstitutionally enforced campaign finance laws against it and requested the judge dismiss the case.
Schaller rejected the motion to dismiss, ruling the state’s campaign finance laws requiring the formation of a political committee and associated disclosures were constitutionally applied in this case. The case will now move forward on its merits.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association released this statement:
“GMA believes that there is no basis in law or fact to support this unprecedented, inequitable and clearly excessive penalty – nearly 18 times higher than any other Washington State public disclosure fine. The court’s decision ignores uncontradicted testimony and uncontroverted evidence that GMA reasonably believed, after being advised by multiple outside attorneys, that it was complying at all times with Washington State law. GMA’s decision to disclose the association itself, rather that its members, as a contributor to the “No on 522” campaign in 2013 was at most an inadvertent technical violation of the State’s vague and complex disclosure law that was being handled as a routine matter by the Public Disclosure Commission until Attorney General Ferguson seized control shortly before the 2013 election to further his personal political ambitions. Attorney General Ferguson’s continuing crusade against GMA has been a centerpiece of his fundraising appeals and re-election effort. GMA intends to vigorously pursue its legal options to correct this injustice.”
To read more, click here.