By GENE JOHNSON
SEATTLE (AP) — A trade group that represents some of the biggest U.S. food companies has agreed to pay $9 million for violations of Washington campaign finance laws, after the state Supreme Court upheld a penalty twice that much. The Consumer Brands Association said in January it intended to appeal the state ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. But on Wednesday, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who sued the group in 2013, announced Consumer Brands was dropping its appeal and would instead settle the case for $9 million, including $3 million in donations to two charities that fight hunger. Ferguson said it’s believed to be the largest campaign finance penalty in the nation’s history.