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Organic Consumers Association

Democracy Loses out as Big Money Overwhelms Grassroots Campaigns

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Politics and Democracy page, Washington News page and our Maine News page.

In two referendum battles that took place on opposite sides of the country on Tuesday, the power of big money campaigns funded by out-of-state corporate interests once again revealed itself by overwhelming grassroots campaigns trying to champion a local common good.

From Maine, where a small town tried to thwart a pipeline company from building a tar sands export terminal, to Washington state, where a broad coalition of consumer advocates and food safety groups called for labeling of genetically modified foods-both campaigns won and maintained the support of the local population... until the corporate money started pouring in.

Local backers of Washington's bid to pass the GMO labeling law, known as I-522, were defeated by corporate interests that spared no expense in the final weeks to overcome the strong support the measure had received since the campaign began. As the Seattle Post Intelligencer reports:

The No on 522 campaign, at $22 million, was the most lavish initiative effort - and likely the most brazen - in the history of Washington state. It saw an unprecedented laundering of campaign contributions. Supporters raised a little less than $8 million, a big enough war chest, but were overwhelmed.

Though the ballot initiative supporters once maintained a 3-to-1 edge over the anti-labeling side, that deluge of money-most of it used to purchase expensive television ads leading up to Election Day-was able to turn the tide. In the end, though some ballots remain to be counted, the measure went down to defeat by an approximate margin of 55 percent to 45 percent.     


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