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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Even More Money from the Soda Lobby?

Posted by on Tue, Oct 12, 2010 at 8:38 AM

The American Beverage Association, a trade lobby of the world's biggest soda manufacturers, has plunked down yet another $2.3 million to pass Initiative 1107—which is attempting to repeal a temporary tax on soda, bottled water, and candy—according to a report released today by the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission. That single contribution, which is enough to run an entire statewide campaign alone, brings the lobby's donations to $16,727,750.00.

The group already donated the largest amount ever to a Washington state initiative campaign at $14.4 million. Only $21,000 arrives in the I-1107 bank account from other donors, state records show.

Why contribute so much more money—on top of a gilded sundae sprinkled with diamonds—when polling shows I-1107 is already passing with a 32 point margin?

This isn't about passing I-1107.

The soda industry is screwing Washington on a national stage to intimidate every state and everyone in Congress from driving the recent trend to tax soda. The ABA is pounding its chest and roaring over Washington's limp electorate to demonstrate they have more money than anyone else does, more lobbying power, and more ballot power. They're trying to scare off any opposition—forever. It's not even worth fighting, they're saying. The counter campaign in Washington has a paltry $393,000, because donating to them is a waste of time.

But unsatisfied as king of the hill for eternity, the ABA's tactics show they have no ethical gauge in campaigns. The group has been running TV commercials that even the Seattle Times called "mostly false" (and we called a sack of bullshit). For the numbers on the campaign's lies—essentially a disingenuous claim that this is a tax on groceries for the poor—you can read more here.


Comments (11) RSS

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Vince 1
Bush's right wing SCOTUS has said money trumps truth, money trumps justice, money trumps government by and for the people. Get used to it.
Posted by Vince on October 12, 2010 at 9:03 AM · Report this
So, if they're willing to spend $16 or $17 mm in WA State, maybe what we should do instead is get a bunch of people in other states with citizens' initiative provisions in their constitutions to submit similar bills; make them spend $100 or $150 mm and see how they like them apples.
Posted by COMTE on October 12, 2010 at 9:21 AM · Report this
elenchos 3
And given all that, you at the Stranger are jacking yourselves off about the issue why?

Your time would be better spent helping to get us to a progressive tax structure where we wouldn't have to be debating these regressive sales taxes on the backs of the poor as a gimmick to fix the perennial budget crisis.

And you know they would have taxed soda a lot higher, and a long time ago, if the point was to discourage consumption. The purpose of this tax is to patch a hole in the state budget. If you started telling the truth about that then you'd be engaged in a conversation about unjust taxation instead of about the evils of corn syrup.

This whole thing is no different than that stupid "latte tax". We desperately need smarter legislators.
Posted by elenchos on October 12, 2010 at 9:22 AM · Report this
Max Solomon 4
@3: not smarter, merely WILLING TO LEGISLATE.
Posted by Max Solomon on October 12, 2010 at 9:28 AM · Report this
Jonathan Golob 5
@3: Agreed that the ideal policy would be a progressive tax structure. So would universal, single payer health care. And street parking prices to ensure about one open space per block. And a use tax on junk food.

From a public health point of view, this 'gimmick tax' is quite a bit more substantive than the latte tax example you offer. There are genuine costs borne by society (including the State health department) for people (poor or rich) eating this crap. Is a use tax--to come closer to covering the costs of the decision to drinking liquid candy soda rather than water--really an unjust tax?

Sure, the general sales tax is an unjust tax. The B&O tax in this state seems a bit unjust to small businesses that cannot weasel their way out like the giants (Boeing). A use tax on something that has external costs otherwise not borne by the user? You have to make that case.
Posted by Jonathan Golob on October 12, 2010 at 9:37 AM · Report this
@2 "...what we should do instead is get a bunch of people in other states..."

Hell no! If the soda lobby is willing to spend $16,727,750.00 in Washington this time, we should be filing initiatives proposing an increase in taxes on soda to appear on every ballot from now until the revenues off their campaign expenditures have funded every state social program or until they quit dumping money into our economy.
Posted by Nothing Wrong With A Soda-Tax Campaign Economy on October 12, 2010 at 9:45 AM · Report this
elenchos 7
Use taxes are regressive, Jonathan. Republicans and libertarians love use taxes. If we charged every person a use tax in exact proportion to the costs of the all the government services they consumed, the poor would be able to afford nothing. No police, no fire, no health care, no education. Nothing.

The middle class would get damn little either. The structure of wealth in our society is too drastically skewed to make anything other than progressive taxes viable.

You have notice that every budget cycle, the state of Washington is in a state of crisis? This is a state that runs on sales taxes and use taxes. Look how that works out.

A tax structure built on use taxes is a libertarian paradise, with a vast sea of slums and shanty towns surrounding islands of walled and gated communities protected by private security guards, and the whole thing headed for hell in a handbasket.
Posted by elenchos on October 12, 2010 at 9:47 AM · Report this
Jonathan Golob 8
@7: Yes. I get it. Use taxes are regressive. Hence, I strongly support I-1098. I supported Ron Sims over Gregoire for this same reason. (He was honest, when campaigning for governor, and campaigned on a state income tax; he lost.)

My point: This particular use tax is marginally less regressive than the other option the legislature is politically prepared to consider: an increase in the general sales tax rate.

So, we agree. The legislature is incapable of enacting good policy. This is, I'd argue, a case where they didn't choose the worst possible policy--merely a bad policy.

I'm putting my efforts into passing I-1098 rather than salvaging this bit of foolishness. I suspect you'd agree on that too.
Posted by Jonathan Golob on October 12, 2010 at 9:53 AM · Report this
elenchos 9
The same argument was used to justify every previous sales tax increase too, Jonathan. All the previous increases were supposedly the only option. All the previous increases were supposedly the only way to preserve desperately needed programs. All the other times they made taxes more regressive, they said it was the only politically feasible option. And they always said some time in the future they would "salvage" the situation. The fact that 1098 has a chance of passing is proof that all those arguments are false: they could have done the job themselves long ago but it was too easy to bullshit liberals into supporting yet another sales tax increase.

So let's say you sign on to more sales taxes "just this once". What happens next time when they come back asking for more? Will you finally draw the line next budget cycle?
Posted by elenchos on October 12, 2010 at 11:16 AM · Report this
Lose-Lose 10
Question, Stranger: what about reforming WA's Initiative process? Nowadays, any mega-corporation can dump millions into the state to get what it wants done, arguably a far cry from what the initiative process was initially about. Is there any chance of reforming the process -while meeting "constitutional merit", like say requiring initiative gatherers to be volunteer? Or at least requiring that lobbies have to dump their money in the state (ie, not hire out of state PR firms, etc, to run the campaign? That way at least the money goes to the state). Or any other way? That's the gist of my question: is there any way the process can be reformed to stop mega corporations from corrupting our democracy?
Posted by Lose-Lose on October 12, 2010 at 11:21 AM · Report this
TheMisanthrope 11
I love the argument here:


Meanwhile, Initiatives with little to no corporation funding fail to get on the ballot, partially because of lack of funding.

If Dominic was actually honest for once instead of doing the whole "track the money" song and dance, he'd find out he was actually supporting a heavily regressive tax structure. It's really a win-win for corporations. If it passes, they win for helping it pass. If it doesn't pass, the taxation still rests on the poor. WHEE!!! Aren't politics grand?
Posted by TheMisanthrope on October 12, 2010 at 12:18 PM · Report this

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