You are here


CEO DATELINE — Appeals court tosses $18M fine against GMA

Sept. 6, 2018
By Walt Williams

Want more news?

Consider joining CEO Update. Membership gives full access to the latest intelligence on association management, career advancement, compensation trends and networking events, as well as hundreds of listings for senior-level association jobs.

Click here for membership details.

A Washington state appeals court has stuck down an $18 million fine levied against the Grocery Manufacturers Association for violating state campaign finance law, instead sending the decision back to lower court for further review.

GMA was hit with the $18 million fine in 2016 after a state district court concluded the association failed to disclose contributors to a campaign opposing a state ballot initiative that would have required labels on foods containing genetically modified ingredients. The judge in the case imposed a $6 million fine then trebled damages after concluding GMA had intentionally violated the law.

GMA appealed the decision. In a Sept. 5 ruling, the three-judge Washington Court of Appeals found that while the association had broken the law, the lower court erred in finding GMA’s actions “intentional” and trebling damages as a result. The appeals court sent the case back to lower court to reconsider the fine.

The $18 million fine against GMA was one of the largest ever levied against an organization for violating state campaign finance law. It also was a blow to an association whose members were divided on how to respond to GMO labeling initiatives like the one in Washington. At least eight high-profile food companies have left GMA since 2017, and earlier this year the group’s long-time CEO Pam Bailey stepped down. Former American Gaming Association CEO Geoff Freeman succeeded her.