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Morning Spin: Coke, Pepsi, Dr Pepper give campaign cash in soda tax fight

Thursday, September 21, 2017
Chicago Tribune
by Hal Dardick

Welcome to Clout Street: Morning Spin, our weekday feature to catch you up with what's going on in government and politics from Chicago to Springfield. Subscribe here.


The candidate filing deadline for Cook County Board seats is still about two months off, but the beverage industry has sent a signal to those who support the controversial soda tax.

Soda makers, bottlers and distributors earlier this month contributed a total of $111,000 to the Citizens for a More Affordable Cook County Political Action Committee, which has pledged to back commissioners who support repealing the tax.

Coca-Cola North America in Atlanta, Great Lakes Coca-Cola in Rosemont, Pepsico Inc. in Purchase, N.Y., and the Dr Pepper-Snapple Group PAC based in Plano, Texas, each contributed $22,200 to the fund. That’s the maximum amount state law allows each of them to give during the 2018 election cycle.

County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is planning to run for a final, third term next year, and the seats of all 17 board commissioners are on the ballot. Meanwhile, a board Finance Committee meeting to consider repeal of the tax has been scheduled for Oct. 10.

Last November, Preckwinkle broke an 8-8 tie to approve the penny-an-ounce tax on sugar- and artificially sweetened beverages. One commissioner was absent.

Money could flow into individual campaigns next year from interests on both sides of the issue. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a longtime advocate for the health benefits of cutting down on sugary drinks, has pledged to spend “whatever it takes” to support county officials who support the tax.

And the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association — allies of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association — recently formed Government Accountability PAC, an independent expenditure committee that plans to spend money to defeat backers of the tax. Contributions to that type of committee are not limited, but they can’t give directly to a candidate or coordinate efforts with individual campaign organizations.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg and the American Beverage Association are spending millions of dollars on competing TV ads in the run-up to the October meeting. (Hal Dardick)

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