As Richmond prepares to vote on a soda tax, does revealing funding sources prevent "effective communication"?
Sometimes the actions of food companies defy credulity. The Community Coalition Against Beverage Taxes, a "grassroots" group funded by the American Beverage Association, has taken the city of Richmond, California to court to block it from requiring disclosure of funding sources in election campaigns.
In case you haven't been following this situation, the Richmond city council got a soda tax initiative ("Measure N") placed on the November ballot. Richmond is a low-income, mixed-race city (80% non-white), with an 11% unemployment rate, and an average household income of $23,000 a year. It population is largely obese and drinks a lot of soda.
You would hardly think a city like this would get on the radar of Big Soda, but you would be wrong. For details, we have to thank Robert Rogers who writes for the local Contra Costa Times and has been following the money.
Because California requires lobbyists to register, Rogers has been able to get hard numbers on the relative spending of anti-tax forces and those who favor the tax. The difference is impressive.
The city of Richmond must have suspected that something like this would happen because the city council passed an ordinance that requires special interest groups to disclose who funds them in campaign literature. They must list their top five funders. You might think this idea entirely appropriate to a democratic society, but the American Beverage Association (translation: Coca-Cola and PepsiCo) does not.