- Washington State Public Disclosure Commission
According to the latest reports from the state's Public Disclosure Commission, the American Beverage Association has contributed $7 million within the last week to a measure on the November ballot that would repeal taxes on soda, candy, and bottled water. Two checks for $3.5 million bring the campaign's total contributions to $10.2 million, making this what many believe is the most highly funded initiative in state history (I have a calls in to election officials to confirm).
"The American Beverage Association has clearly decided that if they put in enough money, they can buy a victory for themselves in this election," says Sandeep Kaushik, spokesman for Citizens to Protect Our Economic Future.
The state legislature approved the taxes on junk food this year as a temporary measure to preserve programs like Basic Health for the poorest people in the state and shore up a budget shortfall.
But the campaign, called Stop the Food & Beverage Tax Hikes, is attempting to couch those fees as an attack on poor people's access to groceries. The official website is stopgrocerytaxes.com, which says the "costly and arbitrary new tax increases on food and beverages... hurts middle-income families, seniors and other people who are already struggling to make ends meet during difficult economic times."
But critics are attempting—albeit with a campaign that has a comparatively small sum of $300,000—to to debunk the claim that bottles of sugar and bags of candy are groceries. "Everything they have done to this point is about running a highly deceptive and misleading campaign," Kaushik says. "They are trying to repeal a temporary tax on nonessential items."
The American Beverage Association has increased lobbying exponentially since 2008, when it spent about $1 million, according to expenditure trackers at OpenSecrets.org. Last year, responding to taxes on sugary drinks, lobbying contributions shot up to over $19 million.