The American Beverage Association, headquartered in the District of Columbia, is the lobbying and P.R. front of the soft drink industry. It was originally founded in 1919 as the American Bottlers of Carbonated Beverages, having undergone two name changes. It became the National Soft Drink Association in 1966, and more recently, in 2004, it adopted its current name.
As the logo collage to the right makes clear, the American Beverage Association and its local affiliate (the Washington Beverage Association) are directly controlled by soda makers and bottlers; they are, for our purposes, one and the same. The ABA’s chairman is Larry Young, the president and chief executive officer of Dr Pepper Snapple Group. The ABA’s vice chairman is Tom L. BenÃ©, the president and chief executive of PepsiCo. And J. Alexander M. Douglas, who heads The Coca-Cola Company’s North American operations, sits on the board… as do the executives of several bottlers and smaller beverage makers.
Since 1990, the American Beverage Association has spent close to $1.5 million on federal campaigns (this figure does not include spending by ABA’s member corporations through their own PACs). The top recipients of the ABAâ€™s cash for the current cycle are Democratic senators Chuck Schumer and Blanche Lincoln.
The ABA has historically donated a much larger sum to candidates in the party of power. It heavily favored Republicans up until the 2008 cycle.
Prior to President Barack Obama’s inauguration, the ABA had spent relatively little on lobbying compared to trade associations for other industries. That all changed last year, when the ABA spent nearly thirty times as much as it had spent the previous year. This is no joke: In 2009, the ABA spent a whopping $18,850,000 lobbying at the federal level. It has already spent more than $9.3 million so far this year.
The Washington Beverage Association’s lobbyists in Olympia are David Michener and Boswell Consulting. WBAâ€™s 2009 lobbying expenses in Washington amounted to $134,668.42 (PDC data).
What the Beverage Associations Want
It seems soft drink makers and distributors will do just about anything to keep Americans addicted to their unhealthy products.
And in our state, that means dumping millions of dollars into Initiative 1107, a measure to roll back the small tax increases recently imposed on soda, candy, and chewing gum. To top it off, the ABA’s initiative brings back a special interest tax loophole the Legislature closed which food processors were taking advantage of.
Never mind that we need that revenue to prevent vital public services from going bankrupt, and never mind that canned or bottled water mixed with high fructose corn syrup and other chemical additives causes obesity and contributes to diabetes.
A report published in the New England Journal of Medicine last year summarized the many correlations between the consumption of sugary soft drinks and health problems.
Three prospective, observational studies â€” one involving nurses in the United States, one involving Finnish men and women, and one involving black women â€” each showed positive associations between the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and the risk of type 2 diabetes. Among the 91,249 women in the Nurses’ Health Study II who were followed for 8 years, the risk of diabetes among women who consumed one or more servings of sugar-sweetened beverages per day was nearly double the risk among women who consumed less than one serving of sugar-sweetened beverages per month; about half the excess risk was accounted for by greater body weight. Among black women, excess weight accounted for most of the excess risk.
“A compelling case can be made for the need for reduced consumption of these beverages,” the authors of the report state in their introduction, noting:
Economists agree that government intervention in a market is warranted when there are â€œmarket failuresâ€ that result in less-than-optimal production and consumption. Several market failures exist with respect to sugar-sweetened beverages. First, because many persons do not fully appreciate the links between consumption of these beverages and health consequences, they make consumption decisions with imperfect information. These decisions are likely to be further distorted by the extensive marketing campaigns that advertise the benefits of consumption.
The overwhelming body of research on this subject that they cite was partly what prompted the Legislature to choose to raise taxes on soda.
The Legislature correctly reasoned that since rampant consumption of sugary soft drinks was having an adverse impact on public health and personal wellness, increasing taxes on those beverages would help discourage excess consumption while raising badly needed revenue for vital public services like Apple Health.
The state has long provided coverage and benefits to Washingtonians who would otherwise lack adequate healthcare, but it can’t do so for free. The increased taxes on soda that the ABA opposes are helping to prevent our most vulnerable families from falling further into poverty.
We cannot afford to destroy vital public services at a time when they are most needed. There will be no economic recovery if we fail to protect our common wealth.
Soda makers, of course, don’t care about the fate of our communities. They want to make sure that people are buying and drinking soda… lots of soda. Because that means more money for them. If that means thousands of Washingtonians will lose access to healthcare, too bad. As far as they’re concerned, it’s just not their problem.
- Contribution Addresses:
- 1101 16th Street NW, District of Columbia, 20036 (ABA)
- 2210 Black Lake Blvd, Olympia, WA 98512 (WBA)
- Chief Executive: Susan Neely
Contribution History for 2010 Cycle
|Amount||Date||Initiative/Sponsor||Committee Given To|
|$3,500,000||08/12/2010||1107 (Timothy Martin)||Stop the Food and Beverage Tax Hikes|
|$3,500,000||08/03/2010||1107 (Timothy Martin)||Stop the Food and Beverage Tax Hikes|
|$2,500 (WBA)||07/01/2010||1053 (Tim Eyman)||Citizens for Responsible Spending|
|$525,500||07/26/2010||1107 (Timothy Martin)||Stop the Food and Beverage Tax Hikes|
|$978,750||06/25/2010||1107 (Timothy Martin)||Stop the Food and Beverage Tax Hikes|
|$466,750||06/17/2010||1107 (Timothy Martin)||Stop the Food and Beverage Tax Hikes|
|$20,000 (WBA)||06/14/2010||1053 (Tim Eyman)||Citizens for Responsible Spending|
|$880,000||06/04/2010||1107 (Timothy Martin)||Stop the Food and Beverage Tax Hikes|
|$150,000||05/27/2010||1107 (Timothy Martin)||Stop the Food and Beverage Tax Hikes|
|$100,000 (In-Kind)||05/24/2010||1107 (Timothy Martin)||Stop the Food and Beverage Tax Hikes|
|$68,000 (In-Kind)||05/24/2010||1107 (Timothy Martin)||Stop the Food and Beverage Tax Hikes|
|$58,750 (In-Kind)||05/24/2010||1107 (Timothy Martin)||Stop the Food and Beverage Tax Hikes|
Total amount shelled out by the ABA and WBA for electioneering: $10,250,250