Earlier this month, lawmakers in San Francisco introduced a bill that would tax sugary beverages at two cents per ounce, thereby setting off the latest big fight with Big Soda. The estimated $31 million in annual revenue would go to local health programs. Voters will decide the measure’s fate in November, with a two-thirds majority required to pass.
It didn’t take long for Big Soda to respond in the way it knows best: By setting up a front group. This one is called, “The Coalition for an Affordable City,” a not so subtle jab at some recent economic tensions in San Francisco. The industry group claims grave concern for residents: “At a time when many San Franciscans confront a growing affordability gap the last thing we need is a tax that makes it even more expensive to live and work in San Francisco.”
Really, the last thing “we” need? “We” as in the American Beverage Association-the lobbying arm of Coke and Pepsi and friends? The bottom of the front group’s website acknowledges the relationship: “Paid for by the American Beverage Association, member of Stop Unfair Beverage Taxes-Coalition for an Affordable City.” Member in chief.
Over at the local Web site Beyond Chron, Dana Woldow skillfully takes down Big Bev’s spurious arguments against the measure, including the fact that “some business owners have no idea how they ended up on the Coalition for an Affordable City’s list of small businesses supposedly opposed to the tax.” Industry reps have apparently resorted to lying-claiming the measure was about insurance or health care-to convince local businesses to display a sign in their window saying: “San Franciscans shouldn’t have to pay more.”
Just this week, the San Francisco Bay Guardian conducted a sting, also catching Big Soda operatives signing up numerous unwitting local businesses to their list of supporters. In some cases, low-level employees signed on without authority, while other businesses were no longer even open. Canvassers also presented a very biased view of the tax, not stating where the money would go, and then failing to inform business owners they would be placed on an opposition list.