The American Beverage Association (ABA), an industry trade group, spent upwards of $10.6 million fighting the city of Philadelphia’s recently passed tax on sugar-sweetened and diet beverages.
On Tuesday The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on disclosure filings recently made public by the Philadelphia Board of Ethics that revealed the trade association – by way of contributions from The Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo, and Dr Pepper Snapple Group – spent more than four times the amount of those backing Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney’s initiative.
The Inquirer indicated the lion’s share of the spending, between April and June of this year, went into radio, TV, and print advertising denouncing what the ABA has been calling “a regressive tax.”
Of the $2.5 million spent promoting the measure – which places a 1.5 cent per ounce tax on soda and other sugary beverages, to be paid at the distributor level – $2.2 million came from Kenney-backed Philadelphians for a Fair Future, which included $1.6 million from former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. Other backers included the American Federation of Teachers, The American Heart Association, and Kenney 2015, among others.
Upon the passage of the tax in June, the ABA responded in a statement on its website, indicating the group wasn’t done fighting just yet.
“The tax passed today is a regressive tax that unfairly singles out beverages – including low-and no-calorie choices. But most importantly, it is against the law. So we will side with the majority of the people of Philadelphia who oppose this tax and take legal action to stop it,” the statement read.
The new tax, which goes into effect on January 1, 2017, is projected to raise $91 million annually, which will go towards funding a variety of city programs.
Kevin Klock, the CEO of Sparkling Ice maker Talking Rain, recently came out in opposition of the tax, saying what was originally meant to encourage consumers to make healthier beverage choices has become “a revenue grab.”
In August of 2015, the Center for Science in the Public Interest published a study revealing that the ABA, The Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo spent more than $106 million collectively combatting public health initiatives encouraging consumers to reduce their consumption of sugary beverages since 2009.