Soda companies are freaking out over the possibility of local taxes on their drinks
Soda companies are freaking out over the possibility of local taxes on their drinks. KEVORK DJANSEZIAN/GETT

The soda industry is putting a massive amount of money behind an initiative that would stop Seattle's soda tax from spreading to other cities in the state.

Last week, according to the state Public Disclosure Commission, four soda companies donated a collective $5 million in one day to Initiative 1634, a measure that would make it illegal for local governments across Washington to raise taxes on sodas.

The $5 million in donations bring the initiative's campaign total to over $13 million. PDC records also indicate the campaign is essentially entirely bankrolled by five international soda companies: Dr Pepper Snapple Group; Keurig Dr. Pepper; PepsiCo, Inc.; Red Bull North America; and The Coca-Cola Company.

The Seattle City Council passed a $0.0175 tax per ounce on sweetened drinks within city limits in June of last year. The tax has raised more than $10 million in its first six months, more than what the city's analysts initially expected.

Vic Colman, the manager for a campaign opposing Initiative 1634, said in a press release yesterday that the soda industry is attempting to protect their profits at the expense of public health.

“The soda industry is spending millions of dollars to push Initiative 1634 so they can protect their profits while taking choices away from voters," Colman said in the press release.

Tuesday's filings show that four soda companies made all of their most recent donations on Sep. 11 of this year, with Coca-Cola Company giving an additional $2.39 million; Pepsico Inc. giving $1.8 million; Keurig Dr. Pepper giving $747,000; and Red Bull North America giving $58,000.

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Coca-Cola is now the biggest donor the initiative with $6.21 million donated, followed by PepsiCo Inc. with $4.68 million donated.

Initiative 1634 would make it illegal for local governments to impose taxes on "any raw or processed food or beverage, or any ingredient thereof, intended for human consumption." Opponents of the measure say it is already illegal for local governments to tax grocery items like fruits, vegetables, milk and bread, and this initiative would expand that ban on local taxes to sweetened drinks.

"The soda industry’s strategy is to mislead you with television and radio ads running non-stop. But don’t be fooled – it’s already illegal to tax groceries in Washington State. The entire goal of Initiative 1634 is to undermine local choices and local control of our communities so that the soda industry can protect their profits," Colman said in yesterday's news release.