State seeks fines against grocery group in 2013 ballot fight

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — A Thurston County judge is hearing arguments Friday in the state's lawsuit alleging campaign disclosure violations against the Grocery Manufacturers Association.

The national trade group of large food companies spent $22 million to defeat a 2013 ballot initiative that would have required labeling of genetically modified food.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson is asking a Superior Court judge to penalize the association, saying it concealed the sources of $11 million in contributions to defeat Initiative 522.

The association is seeking to have the lawsuit dismissed. It argues that the state's interpretation of disclosure laws is too vague and that the state imposes burdens that limit the group's freedom to speak on behalf of its members.

Voters defeated I-522 on a vote of 51-49. It was one of the most expensive initiative fights in state history.