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Accusations fly over alleged FBI probe of campaign against Prop. 37

November 02, 2012|By Marc Lifsher | This post has been updated. See below for details.
  • Scientist shows ear of genetically engineered corn at Monsanto Co. test farm at Chesterfield, Mo.
Scientist shows ear of genetically engineered corn at Monsanto Co. test… (P.J. Huffstutter/Los Angeles…)

SACRAMENTO -- Supporters of Proposition 37, the genetically engineered food labeling initiative, are saying that the FBI is investigating the No campaign for allegedly fraudulently using the seal of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in a campaign mailer.

Lawyers for the Yes campaign said they were contacted by telephone by a Sacramento-based FBI agent, identified as Jason Jones, as part of an initial fact-finding involving a complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Justice two weeks ago.

The Yes campaign's assertions immediately were knocked down by the U.S. Attorney's office for the Eastern District of California in Sacramento.

"Neither the FBI nor this office has a pending investigation related to this matter," said a statement released Friday morning by spokeswoman Lauren Horwood.

The statement also said that the allegations contained in the complaint from the Yes on 37 campaign had been referred to the FDA "for any action they believe is appropriate."

[Updated  1:23 p.m., Nov. 2: An FDA spokeswoman would neither confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation.]

The relatively lengthy statement from the U.S. Attorney's office was unusual because federal law enforcement agencies rarely confirm or deny on the record whether they are investigating any matter.

Pressed by reporters at a morning conference call, the Yes campaign's lawyer, Joe Sandler, said he understood that the call from Special Agent Jones confirmed that an "investigation" was underway.

But Horwood, in a follow-up interview, stressed that a telephone call from an FBI agent does not constitute "an investigation. "There's no activity at the FBI or our office regarding this letter" from the Yes on 37 campaign, she said.

The No on 37 campaign, which is backed by major biotech companies, such as Monsanto Co., and grocery manufacturers, called the claims of an FBI investigation "stretching the truth."

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