GMO labeling campaigns raising near-record money in state

The No on 522 committee has $11.6 million from eight donors

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With more than a month to go until Election Day, opponents of the Washington initiative to require labeling of genetically engineered foods already are climbing into record campaign-fundraising territory.Behind recent multimillion-dollar contributions from biochemical corporations Monsanto and DuPont Pioneer, the No on I-522 Committee has pushed into second place all-time for fundraising by a campaign opposing a statewide ballot measure.

And, money raised on both sides of the battle over labeling of so-called GMOs also has ascended Washington's campaign-fundraising charts this week, breaking into the top five of collective fundraising totals for a ballot measure.

In all, the latest fundraising figures reported Monday to Washington's Public Disclosure Commission — the state's campaign-finance watchdog — show the No on 522 committee so far raising $11.6 million from just eight donors.

Among Washington's most-moneyed opposition campaigns to statewide ballot measures of all time, that figure trails only the roughly $12.4 million raised by foes of the liquor-privatizing initiative in 2011, PDC records show.

Meantime, the Yes on I-522 committee so far has raised about $4.4 million.

Collectively, the tally is about $16 million with 41 days until the Nov. 5 general election.

When it comes to the volatile political fight in recent years over labeling so-called GMOs (genetically modified organisms), the scorching fundraising pace being set in Washington this year is to be expected.

"We're doing everything we can to make sure we have the necessary funds to fight the misleading campaign," Dana Bieber, the No campaign's spokeswoman, said Tuesday. "I think when it's all said and done, we will have enough resources to share the facts with voters."

"We simply don't have the deep pockets that six multibillion-dollar corporations have," countered Yes campaign spokeswoman Liz Larter. "But we're very fortunate to have such great statewide support, and we've seen that in the sheer numbers of our grass-roots supporters. "

Initiative 522, which would require food producers to disclose whether some foods were produced using genetic engineering, is nearly identical to a ballot measure in California last year. Written by some of the same people who authored Washington's measure, it lost 51 percent to 49 percent.

The California battle drew big money — $53 million in all — from some of the same contributors now bankrolling the pro- and anti- campaigns in Washington this year, including each side's top donors.

The anti-labeling side in California outspent supporters of that measure nearly 5 to 1, or about $44 million to $9 million.

Political observers have said they don't think the contribution totals will end up nearly as high in Washington, but they could eclipse some of this state's records for ballot measures.

The single largest amount ever contributed to an initiative campaign in Washington remains the $8.9 million donation by Costco to support liquor-privatizing Initiative 1183, PDC spokeswoman Lori Anderson said.

The I-1183 campaign also still tops the PDC's lists for most money raised for a statewide initiative ($20,115,326); most money raised against a statewide initiative ($12,351,656); and most money raised by both sides on a statewide initiative ($32,466,982).

Earlier this month, two biochemical companies — Monsanto of St. Louis and DuPont Pioneer of Johnston, Iowa — gave single contributions of $4.6 million and $3.2 million, respectively, to the No on 522 campaign.

On the pro-labeling side, Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps of Escondido, Calif., has contributed about $1.5 million in support of I-522, including a single contribution of $500,000 reported Monday.

Already, both sides have started airing television spots that echo some of the same rhetoric as California's campaign. But the vast majority of contributions now funding I-522 campaigns have yet to be spent by either side, records show.

Reports of the No campaign's $1.6 million in spending to date indicate most of it going toward advertising, printing and consulting fees. The Yes campaign has spent about $858,000, with the largest amounts going to polling, "donor communications" and payroll taxes, records show.