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GMO Fight: Judge Rejects Request by Moms for Labeling to Impound No on 522 Campaign Funds

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page, Millions Against Monsanto page and our USDA Watch page.

 A Thurston County judge rejected a request by the Moms for Labeling group Wednesday to freeze $3.5 million still unspent by the No on 522 campaign committee. The committee is trying to defeat Initiative 522, which would require labels on packages of genetically engineered foods and seed stock sold in Washington.

Superior Court Judge Chris Wickham said he did not know how he'd rule if the case went to trial and that there was not a clear enough case the Moms group had legal standing to seek the restraining order. At issue is the legality of spending $7.2 million that the Grocery Manufacturers Association gave to NO on 522 - money it solicited from food companies without first registering as a political committee, which Washington law requires.

GMA agreed to register as a PAC and identify donors last week after Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed suit alleging it broke state law in raising the funds.

Wickham also said "the issues that are raised in this case are significant and they are not clear cut. They are quite complicated." Wickham said he also agreed with the Moms group that time was key and that their interest in winning labeling laws for genetically engineered foods could be damaged.

Recent polling shows the race tightened dramatically over the past month as the No on 522 has spent heavily on television ads in a campaign that is already one of the most expensive ballot fights in state history.

"They have swung the race 40 points already and the race is too close to call. The No on 522 and GMA are on the verge of stealing this election," Moms' lawyer Knoll Lowney told the court. Lowney said he understood "this is an unprecedented request in this state'' to freeze the campaign funding, but he said the law lets a judge set aside an election result as well as to freeze accounts..

Attorney Michele Radosevich, representing No on 522, said the anti-labeling campaign had not done wrong itself and had no control over its donors - in this case the Grocery Manufacturers. Radosevich said that any action to restrain the campaign's spending this late in the campaign would be an unfair and an unconstitutional "prior restraint" of speech.     
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