The Grocery Manufacturers Association must pay a record $18 million for violating campaign-finance laws, a Thurston County Superior Court judge ruled (pdf).
The fine is the largest campaign-finance penalty in U.S. history, according to the state attorney general.
The Washington D.C.-based trade group hid donor contributions to oppose voter Initiative 522, which required labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), according to Judge Anne Hirsch's November 2 ruling.
The measure narrowly failed at the ballot, with 51 percent of voters rejecting it. The association spent $11 million to defeat the initiative, but refused to reveal actual donors such as Coke, Pepsi and Nestle, according to the attorney general's office.
Businesses contributed to internal fund created and overseen by the association, and proceeds were then used to oppose the initiative.
The entire scheme, Attorney General Bob Ferguson said, was concocted to bypass election disclosure rules.