by Marion Nestle
Sep 10 2012

California judge: Richmond cannot require anti-soda tax group to disclose donors

I’m following the soda tax initiative in Richmond, CA with rapt attention.  Richmond, as I explained last week, is a low-income city with a lot of obesity-related chronic disease and high soda consumption.

Residents will vote on its soda tax initiative in November.  In the meantime, the American Beverage Association has gone to work to spin the science, attack critics, and fund “community coalition” groups to oppose the initiative.

Richmond requires such groups to disclose their top donors on political mailings.  The soda-industry funded “Coalition” went to court to block this requirement on First Amendment grounds.

Now, according to Robert Rogers, the terrific reporter for the Contra Costa Times who has been working on this story, a federal judge in San Francisco issued a temporary restraining order doing just that.

Complete victory for our side,” said coalition spokesman Chuck Finnie. “(Judge Charles Breyer) indicated he doesn’t think (the ordinance) applies to us because we are not engaged in independent expenditures. (Breyer) indicated a city can’t require a campaign to publish political arguments under the guise of claiming it is a disclosure.

This will be back in court on September 18.

In the meantime, “Big Soda” is expected to spend more than a million dollars in Richmond to make its efforts look like a local campaign.

Here is the Statement on Ruling on Richmond Mailer Ordinance.

And here are related Contra Costa Times stories on the soda tax initiative.

  • Cathy Richards

    Can’t believe this. Wonder where the judge is going for vacation this year.

  • Food prices are going up becauase of the drought. This could impact soda raw materials causing an increase in price (unless there are stockpiles somewhere).

    Measure the difference in sales between this year and next (and possibly the year after) to see if a national price increase in Soda slowed consumption. If it did, what was the potential health benefit?

    Evidence, evidence, evidence. It is so hard to avoid the evidence.

    Fewer soda sales = increased health, lower weight and lower health spending – boom: congress get to it on Soda tax laws.

  • Disappointing, but not surprising. Hopefully the people of the community know to look beyond the ‘grassroots efforts’ to defeat this bill.

  • Mike

    Looks like the judge is taking his clue from the Supreme Court — industry rights must always trump the right of the individual. A sad day for health, for Richmond and for America.

  • I voted “yes” that Richmond (I think all municipalities) should tax sodas but not just because they may make some people fat. They are an environmental waste, as in unrecycled trash. The containers don’t even really get thrown away, they get thrown out or down by their users. Find a fast food restaurant and start driving away from it and soon you’ll begin to see wrappers and cups that will continue for miles. Really the fast food industry should be taxed to pay for the roadside garbage pick-up that is littered. But we haven’t even begun to address their role in littering yet…

  • I am glad that people in this country have rights. That means people who own and or work beverage companies have to have certain rights.
    This may seem bad to some in this case but if you think it is bad for people to have such rights that enable them to do what some do not like, consider that if people do not have such rights it is worse.