$7.9M raised to fight Maui GMO ballot initiative
WAILUKU, Hawaii —Genetically modified organisms have become one of the most heated issues in the upcoming election.
In Maui County, millions of dollars are being poured into ads against a Moratorium on GMOs.
The group called The Citizens Against the Maui Country Farming Ban has collected nearly $8 million dollars in contributions for its cause against the ban.
More recently, another group called the Maui Citizens Initiative for a Temporary Moratorium on GMO Crop Cultivation has released its own ads. The total contributions are just under $60,000. Organizers say the deep pockets of the GMO companies have battered and blinded voters.
“It’s a distortion of our democracy where money over takes everything,” said Sam Small of the Shaka Movement.
The vast majority of the anti-initiative money comes from two GMO seed-producing companies in Hawaii: Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences. Monsanto has spent about $5 million against the initiative, while Dow AgroSciences spent nearly $1.8 million.
Other contributions include $1 million from Council for Biotechnology Information and nearly $20,000 from the Support Agriculture Coalition Committee.
Records show expenditures include $4.2 million in advertising, nearly $500,000 in direct mailing and $1.2 million on a Los Angeles company that specializes in ballot measure campaigns.
Small says that free-flowing money is a result of the Supreme Court’s ruling earlier this year to strike down campaign spending limits.
“This is an extension of that, where a corporation can come into a county and spend millions of dollars that nobody can compete with,” said Small.
In a statement Citizens Against the Maui Farming Ban said:
“The campaign used the financial resources of the seed companies to correct the mass amount of misinformation that has been spread in the community by the initiative’s backers and to discuss with the voters how this initiative would devastate our islands and our local economy.”
But with spending reports coming in just one week before the election, some say it’s part of the process and that may not have the voter’s best interest in mind.
“Right now the filings for the disclosures were so late that many people weren’t able to determine who was trying to buy their votes until the last minute and often many people have already cast their votes,” said Carmille Lim of Common Cause.
The nearly $8 million being pumped into this race comes out to more than $50 per person living on Maui.