Whether you support or oppose GMO labeling, the outcome of I-522 should worry you. The result of last weeks ballot is yet another example of how corporations are becoming dangerously influential in democratic proceedings. Monsanto, DuPont, Dow Agro and other out-of-state corporations defeated I-522 solely by outspending the Yes campaign.
From the start, I-522 touted strong local support. In an interview conducted just a week before voting day, Anita Yandle of the Yes campaign attributed the movements success to its grassroots supporters, saying, “It’s hands down incredible. We had a record number of signatures to go through the legislature and we have volunteers calling everyday to make sure we have enough support. It [the passage of I-522] would be absolutely due to our grassroots support.” When asked what might cause I-522 to fail she said, “I would attribute that to the large out of state corporations on the other side putting in record breaking amounts of money, buying all of the air waves.”
She was right on the mark. Such corporations broke Washington’s record for campaign contributions last week after raising approximately $22 million in opposition to I-522, beating out Washington’s last record of campaign contributions by around a million. They outraised the Yes campaign by 261% ($13,578,632) and outspent them by 244% (11,895,393), as reported by the Public Disclosure Commission.
This support did not come from the people or any sort of grassroots movement as it did with the Yes campaign. Out of the $22 million the No campaign raised, only $550 of that was from five state residents. In contrast, Monsanto alone contributed approximately $6 million. The No campaign was driven almost entirely by corporate donations.
Initiative measure I-522 also enjoyed initial voter support. A voter poll conducted in September by Elway showed 66% of Washington voters in favor of I-522 and 22% in opposition. Another conducted in late October by King 5 news showed 45% in favor and 38% in opposition. The measure was also endorsed by both Seattle mayoral candidates and the Seattle City Council. The only area in which Yes on I-522 did not seem to have the upper hand was campaigning expenditures. As stated, they fell short of No on I-522 by 244%.
Even with initial voter support, local government endorsements and a large volunteer base, Yes I-522 could not outspend corporations like Monsanto, DuPont and Dow Agro. As a result the Measure lost to such firms. Whether I-522 was important to you or not, this should worry you. Campaign finance stretches far beyond the GMO labeling movement. Any issue that entertains campaigning faces the same wall of deep pocketed corporations that I-522 ran up against. These corporations (in the case of I-522: Monsanto, DuPont and Dow Agro) have and will put their interests in front of the voters.
As a minor, I was not able to vote last week, which made it all the harder to watch a measure, that deserved to pass, fail in the face of corporations like Monsanto.