Soda Industry Money Floods Berkeley to Undermine Measure D

20140922moneyLast week, the No on D Campaign reported a contribution from the American Beverage Association of $500,000, bringing a total of $800,000 that the industry has spent to defeat Measure D in Berkeley. We’re sharing the open letter that the campaign has written in response to this news, and the ambush of ads, canvassers, and push polls this money is buying.

Dear Berkeley Residents,

You may not know it, but if you are registered to vote, you have already been contacted by Big Soda. The slick mailers and constant phone surveys have all been paid for by Big Soda. And it is about to get worse. Last week, Big Soda’s lobbying arm – the American Beverage Association – made the largest single campaign contribution in the history of the City of Berkeley.

Big Soda’s half million dollar contribution is unprecedented and is an attempt to fundamentally undermine our democracy. Never before has this kind of corporate money been unleashed on Berkeley voters. They are trying to buy an election. Instead of engaging in a genuine discussion of the health issues at stake, they are suffocating discussion through a tidal wave of political ads that attempt to confuse voters, obscure the science, and mischaracterize the measure.

They have done this before elsewhere. Two years ago, the American Beverage Association and friends wrote checks totaling $4.1 million to defeat Richmond and El Monte’s soda tax measures. It is also reminiscent of Big Tobacco, which spent millions of dollars trying to convince voters that their products were completely safe, long after the medical and public health community knew otherwise.

So the next time you get a phone call from someone asking you about your views on Measure D or the soda tax, follow the example of Robert Reich and ask who is paying for the survey.

The next time someone knocks on your door with the same talking points, remember that Measure D is unanimously endorsed by the entire city council, the entire school board, the NAACP, the League of Women Voters, Alice Waters, Michael Pollan, and many, many more (see below). In contrast, the “No Berkeley Beverage Tax” or “No on D” campaign, which describes itself as “a coalition of citizens, businesses, and community organizations,” is really just the American Beverage Association.

As Robert Reich recently wrote, “If a soda tax can’t pass in the most progressive city in America, it can’t pass anywhere. Big Soda knows that, which is why it’s determined to kill it here.” We can’t let corporate dollars destroy our democracy.


The Ecology Center and your friends and neighbors from the Yes on D campaign

The Yes on D campaign is endorsed by the following organizations, businesses, elected officials, and residents:

ACLU Berkeley/North East Bay Chapter
Alameda – Contra Costa Medical Association
Alameda County Democratic Party Central Committee
American Academy of Pediatrics – California
American Heart Association
Berkeley Democratic Club
Berkeley Dental Society
Berkeley Federation of Teachers
Berkeley NAACP
Bette’s Oceanview Diner
Cafe Leila, Berkeley
California Nurses Association
California Public Health Association – North
East Bay Stonewall Democratic Club
Ecology Center
Healthy & Active Before 5, Contra Costa Child Care Council
Healthy Black Families
John George Democratic Club
Kiwi Pediatrics Medical Group
Latinos Unidos de Berkeley
League of Women Voters (Berkeley, Albany, Emeryville)
Lifelong Medical Care, Inc.
National Women’s Political Caucus – Alameda North
Prevention Institute
Public Health Institute
Smoke BBQ, Berkeley
The Natural Grocery Company
Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club
Mayor Tom Bates
Councilmember Linda Maio, District 1
Councilmember Darryl Moore, District 2
Councilmember Max Anderson, District 3
Councilmember Jesse Arreguin, District 4
Councilmember Laurie Capitelli, District 5
Councilmember Susan Wengraf, District 6
Councilmember Kriss Worthington, District 7
Councilmember Gordon Wozniak, District 8
Judy Appel, Berkeley School Board Member
Joshua Daniels, Berkeley School Board President
Karen Hemphill, Berkeley School Board Member
Beatriz Leyva-Cutler, Berkeley School Board Member
Julie Sinai, Berkeley School Board Member
Robert Reich, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy, UC Berkeley
Loni Hancock, California State Senator
Nancy Skinner, California State Assemblymember
Keith Carson, Alameda County Board of Supervisors
Michael Pollan, Knight Professor of Journalism, UC Berkeley
Alice Waters, Founder, Edible Schoolyard Project; Executive Chef, Founder of Chez Panisse
Dr. Vicki Alexander, Berkeley City Health Director, Retired
Martin Bourque, Executive Director, Ecology Center
Ann-Marie Hogan, Auditor, City of Berkeley
Marty Lynch, CEO of LifeLong Medical Care
Xavier Morales, Executive Director, Latino Coalition for a Healthy California
Dr. Lynn Silver, Senior Advisor, Public Health Institute
Lisa Stephens, Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board; Former Chair, Parks & Rec Commission
Tony Thurmond, Candidate for California State Assembly
Alice Walker, Author

[Photo credit: Dave Rutt on Flickr]

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