Anti-beverage tax coalitions have spent $3.5 million in Richmond, El Monte
on October 11, 2012
Committees backed by the American Beverage Association have spent $3.5 million total to defeat measures proposing one cent per ounce taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages in Richmond and El Monte, CA.
Campaign filings submitted to the city of El Monte this week show that the No on H, El Monte Citizens Against Beverage Taxes, has spent $1.3 million on efforts to defeat the tax. In Richmond the Community Coalition Against Beverage Taxes has spent $2.2 million to defeat the measure. The ABA is the sole funder of both committees.
“Our support of the no campaigns is an extension of our efforts we have been involved with all over the country,” said Karen Hanretty, the ABA’s vice president of public affairs. “Wherever these threats arise we are going to play an active role so our products are not singled out.”
Although the two cities are separated by close to 400 miles, the strategy for both committees has been much of the same — spend heavily for political consultants and media campaigns to win support against the measure, and use local movie theaters and billboards to help spread the message.
In El Monte, as in Richmond, the coalition against the beverage taxes has teamed up with local movie theaters for trailer time and campaign materials. In Richmond it is the Century Hilltop 8 theater owned by Cinemark, USA, in El Monte, the theater is the El Monte 8, owned by Regal Entertainment Group.
Although the No on H effort has spent $1.3 million so far, campaign contribution statements filed with the El Monte City Clerk’s office show that the ABA has contributed only $860,000 to the committee, leaving it with $600,000 in unpaid bills.
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Why are paid political lobbyists the main spokespersons of the anti-soda-tax side? Do voters really think they care about our community? When lobbyists publicly boast about their unlimited war chest, as they do in Richmond, it crosses the line from unseemly to grotesque. Using millions to try to crush an all-volunteer movement is nothing to be proud of. Big Soda’s dominance of this local debate is a slap in the face of our democracy.
Consider the small business perspective. If you are adding up small margins, then you want to sell as many of a given drink (soda) as possible.
Richmond is a test bed precisely because there is a community to respond to things like this.
Small businesses make their money by the number of customers they bring into the store. Sure they may buy one soda, but they might also buy a pack of gum, that pint of milk, whatever. For them it makes sense to take the backing. To me it seems like a band-aid on a bigger problem. People can buy their soda from other towns. The major flaw is the lack of a size determinant (unless i’m mistaken). If you want a hand-soda is one thing, a 2-liter+ another.