Minority Groups and Bottlers Team Up in Battles Over Soda
By NICHOLAS CONFESSORE
The decision by a New York State judge striking down the Bloomberg administration’s ban on large, sugary drinks this week was not just a high-profile victory for the soda companies in their pitched battle against anti-obesity policies that are aimed at their products. It was also a victory for the industry’s steadfast, if surprising, allies: advocacy groups representing the very communities hit hardest by the obesity epidemic.
There shouldn't be anything too "surprising" about the Rent-a-Minority business, no more than Henry Cisneros being the Hispanic face of Countrywide Financial. Similarly, the tobacco companies poured a lot of money into minority groups before their legal defeat in the 1990s. It's just that The Narrative gets in the way of people noticing it, just as The Narrative encourages it.
Also, much of what we remember about the past is due to which subjects are deemed worthy of rehashing because they Fit the Narrative. For example, here's a 1987 NYT article mentioning all the Big Tobacco money accepted by civil rights and feminist organizations. But, that's not the kind of topic that gets dredged up on its anniversary.
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.
The beverage business, in particular, has a long history of this. I can recall after the Al Campanis brouhaha in the 1980s, sportswriters called on baseball teams to hire Joe Morgan as a manager. But Morgan, as a black Republican (an old friend of George H.W. Bush going back to their days in Houston in the mid-1960s), instead got to buy a Coors bottling company as part of that Republican-owned company's innoculation of itself against charges of racism for being Republican. As Morgan sensibly explained, you don't get to leave a big league manager's job to your son in your will.