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Soda companies spend $7 million more on initiative to block local taxes

With $20.2 million raised, the pro I-1634 campaign now trails only the fossil fuels-industry backed opposition to a statewide carbon tax among the largest campaigns this election cycle, and ranks among the best-funded initiative campaigns in state history.

Four soda-industry giants have poured more than $20 million into the campaign promoting Initiative 1634, which asks voters to bar local governments in Washington from taxing beverages, food and ingredients.

The Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo, Keurig Dr Pepper and Red Bull North America refilled the campaign’s coffers with a combined $7 million in contributions last week.

With $20.2 million raised, the pro I-1634 campaign now trails only the fossil-fuels-industry backed opposition to a statewide carbon tax among the largest campaigns this election cycle and ranks among the best-funded initiative campaigns in state history.

The money has been spent on ubiquitous television advertising highlighting that the initiative would ban local grocery taxes, but making little or no mention of the sweetened beverages made by the campaign’s funders.

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Opponents say the emphasis on grocery taxes obscures the campaign’s true purpose — to stop cities from taxing sweetened beverages, as Seattle has done.

“As long as there is misinformation being shared to deny the very real threat of ‘privilege taxes’ spreading across Washington state on any product at any time, we will invest in education efforts to reach voters,” the Yes to Affordable Groceries Coalition said in a statement. Those efforts will include advertising and speaking engagements.

Aaron Pickus, a spokesman for the opposition campaign, also leveled charges of misinformation, pointing to the yes campaign’s failure to cite any actual grocery-tax proposals.

“I’ve never seen such a brazen campaign to pass a measure that would take away local control of our towns and cities with so little regard for even basic facts,” he said in a statement.

The opposition campaign has raised $8,850 in cash and $4,080 through in-kind contributions, mostly from Seattle-based public-health advocacy organizations such as the Foundation for Healthy Generations and Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition.


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