Fine Against Consumer Brands Association Upheld

Nov. 13, 2020
An $18 million judgment against the Consumer Brands Association in an election case has been confirmed by an appeals court in Washington state.

An $18 million judgment against the Consumer Brands Association in an election case has been confirmed by an appeals court in Washington state.

The CBA got fined by state election officials over its actions in a 2013 referendum that would have required foods sold in Washington state to inform consumers if they contained genetically modified ingredients.

During the campaign, food companies contributed $11 million to convince Washingtonians to vote no (which a majority eventually did). This money went through the CBA, then known as the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which originally listed itself as the contributor. The idea was to protect the contributing companies from boycotts by “yes” advocates.

Although the CBA did reveal the contributors’ identities three weeks before the election, state officials hit the organization with an $18 million fine for “concealing” their names.

The finding against the CBA has been confirmed by the Washington Supreme Court. The organization is now fighting the size of the fine, contending it should be one-third of what was levied.

An appeals court panel unanimously ruled against the CBA, saying in its opinion, "These violations were serious and significant, and represented an intentional attempt to conceal the identity of companies donating millions of dollars in a contentious ballot campaign.”

The CBA has vowed to appeal to the state and, if necessary, the U.S. Supreme Court.

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