AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Atlanta's Coke gets a split decision in San Francisco

Atlanta's Coca-Cola Co. no doubt breathed a sigh of relief Tuesday when San Francisco voters failed to approve ballot Measure E, which would have imposed a $.02 cent tax on each ounce of sugary beverages sold in the city. The ballot initiative won a majority, with 54.5 percent of the vote, but not the two-thirds necessary for adoption.

The San Francisco Ethics Commission reports that The American Beverage Association California PAC raised a whopping $8 million to defeat the measure. The top contributor to that PAC? Atlanta's Coke, which donated $5.8 million, according to MapLight, which tracks money in politics. (PepsiCo was the No. 2 contributor.)

The beverage PAC lost, however, in neighboring (and smaller) Berkeley, Calif., which adopted a $.01 cent per ounce tax by a simple majority.

According to the San Francisco Examiner, the tax in San Francisco would have raised up to $54 million a year and decreased consumption of sugary drinks by 31 percent.

The newspaper quoted one of the city's supervisors (elected council representatives), who backed the soda tax, claiming victory nonetheless.

"The soda industry got a double black eye today," Supervisor Scott Wiener told the Examiner. "While we didn't get to 2/3, a majority of voters supported the soda tax despite $10 million in corporate spending against it. No city has ever even gotten close to a majority vote, and tonight Berkeley won in a landslide and San Francisco got a majority."


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About the Author

Ken Foskett has been an AJC reporter and editor since 1989 and is the Senior Editor/Investigations.