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Olympia Judge Outrageously Rejects Lawsuit Against Money Laundering by GMA in I-522 GMO Labeling Battle; Fines 'Moms for Labeling' Group $10,000

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A Thurston County judge has rejected the lawsuit filed last month by a "Moms for Labeling" group that sought better campaign finance disclosure by the food-industry in the ballot fight this fall over Initiative 522. The No on 522 campaign has raised a record $17.2 million to oppose the requirement to label all genetically modified foods in Washington, and $7.2 million of it comes from the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which is not itemizing where the money is coming from.

Under terms of a law meant to shelter citizens against harassing and preemptive lawsuits, Superior Court judge Chris Wickham imposed a $10,000 sanction Friday against the Moms group that had hauled No on 522 to court. At the same time, Wickham indicated that a similar but ongoing complaint at the state Public Disclosure Commission was the appropriate venue for the campaign-finance challenge.

"The judge gave us a complete victory here," said Michelle Radosevich, attorney for the No on 522 campaign. "He certainly vindicated our position that this was an inappropriate use of the courts to try to enforce campaign finance rules. The PDC is the proper forum for that. The judge agreed with us."

Knoll Lowney, the lawyer who filed suit against No on 522 and the grocers, said the case is not over. He said that because they filed a 45-day notice letter on the PDC last month, alleging the wrongdoing, the state has 45 days to act on it - or Moms for Labeling will be authorized to bring its legal challenge back to Superior Court.

Lowney said his intention is to do that on Oct. 17 - unless the PDC and Attorney General's Office take action sooner.

The No on 522 campaign blasted the lawsuit. "This was a frivolous and baseless lawsuit brought for no other reason than to try to generate media headlines in the heat of a political campaign," Dana Bieber, spokesperson for No on 522, said in a news release. "Proponents of I-522 have been making misleading claims in the media, in their advertisements and through this lawsuit. This was legal harassment, pure and simple."

Lowney said that Wickham's decision to impose terms of the anti-SLAPP lawsuit against the Moms group is a turning of the original law on its head. He said the law allowing sanctions against those who employee Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation is meant to protect small groups against better financed groups that use lawsuits to stymie critics.   
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