The Monsanto Co. has jumped into Washington state politics in a big way.
With a check for nearly $4.6 million, the St. Louis-based Fortune 500 company has more than doubled the money raised by opponents of Initiative 522, which would require labeling genetically modified foods.
The No on 522 campaign has now raised about $7.9 million, giving it a $3.5 million advantage over backers of the measure to label GMO foods.
Monsanto had given the No on 522 campaign $242,000 in May. Before that, the multinational maker of seeds and herbicides had never used its financial power to try to influence the fate of a ballot measure in Washington state.
Washington Public Disclosure Commission records show Monsanto had contributed much smaller amounts (totaling less than $90,000) to various candidates for the Washington state Legislature. Over the past decade and a half, 82 percent of Monsanto’s contributions have gone to Republican candidates.
Individual and corporate contributions to campaigns for elected office in Washington state cannot exceed $800 to $1,800 apiece, depending on the office. But the sky’s the limit when it comes to ballot measures in this country — spending on those is protected as political speech.
In 2012, Monsanto contributed $8.1 million to a successful effort to defeat California’s similar Proposition 37. The company was the No on 37 campaign’s biggest contributor.
Monsanto’s is not the largest campaign contribution in Washington history. Lori Anderson with the Washington Public Disclosure Commission says that distinction goes to Costco Wholesale Corp. of Issaquah. Costco contributed more than $20.8 million in its successful push to privatize liquor sales in 2011.
The biggest supporter of I-522 has been Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps of Escondido, Calif., which has contributed $950,000.
An Elway poll out Tuesday shows 66 percent of Washington voters in favor of requiring labels on GMO foods.