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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Buying Allies in the Soda War

In our chapter on interest groups, we explain that corporations use philanthropy to advance their interests.  To put it bluntly, they use charitable contributions to buy allies.  The New York Times offers an excellent case in point:
Dozens of Hispanic and African-American civil rights groups, health advocacy organizations and business associations have joined the beverage industry in opposing soda regulation around the country in recent years, arguing that such measures — perhaps the greatest regulatory threat the soft-drink industry has ever faced — are discriminatory, paternalistic or ineffective.
Many of these groups have something else in common: They are among the recipients of tens of millions of dollars from the beverage industry that has flowed to nonprofit and educational organizations serving blacks and Hispanics over the last decade, according to a review by The New York Times of charity records and other documents.
Soda companies have sponsored conferences for theNational Hispana Leadership Institute, scholarships for local chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, financial literacy classes offered by the National Puerto Rican Coalition and programs from the National Hispanic Medical Association.
These connections came to the fore recently when the New York chapter of the N.A.A.C.P., along with the Hispanic Federation, a coalition of Hispanic community service agencies in the New York area, filed an amicus brief in support of the beverage industry’s effort to block Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s proposal for a citywide ban on large, sugary beverages. The judge ruled on Monday that the limits would be “arbitrary and capricious” because they would apply unequally to some establishments and to different kinds of sugary beverages.