A group called Citizens for Health recently began a campaign to encourage consumers to reduce high-fructose corn syrup in their diets, filing a petition with the Food and Drug Administration demanding stricter labeling on food items containing the sweetener.
Yet the petition did not disclose that the organization, which bills itself as the “voice of the natural-health consumer,” received the bulk of its money at the time from sugar companies, which view corn syrup as a threat to their profits. Since 2011, the organization has received at least $500,000 from the industry.
Sugar companies’ investments in this nonprofit group, detailed in newly released internal documents, are part of a growing strategy used by corporate interests seeking to influence Washington policymaking.
No longer content to rely on traditional lobbyists, companies are investing in other messengers, such as nonprofit groups or academicians, that can provide expert testimony, shape news media coverage and change public opinion in ways that ultimately affect decisions in the nation’s capital.
The new approach lacks the transparency that comes from traditional lobbyist registration rules that provide a visible trail of corporate contact with lawmakers and regulators. Nonprofit organizations, now playing an increasing role in lobbying and electoral politics, are not required to publicly reveal their donors.