The Sweet Taste of ... Taxes

Published on
May 27, 2013

California is one of the growing number of states trying to curb residents’ rising obesity rates by taxing high-calorie, sugary drinks. California state Sen. Bill Monning has introduced SB 622, legislation that would levy a 1-cent-per-ounce tax on sweetened beverages, including sodas. According to the Los Angeles Times, under the new regulations the money paid by beverage distributors would go to a Children's Health Promotion Fund to pay for a statewide childhood obesity prevention program.

The issue of sugary drinks has also appeared on the national radar with New York City’s widely publicized “soda ban,” which prohibits the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks at restaurants, street carts, and movie theaters; however that ban was struck down in early April by a New York judge. In a similar vein, as part of a pilot program by the American Beverage Association called “Calories Count,” companies such as PepsiCo and Coca-Cola will add calorie counts and more low-calorie and no-calorie drinks to vending machines in municipal buildings in Chicago and San Antonio.

According to the National Institute on Money in State Politics (, the food and beverage industry contributed $5.3 million to state campaigns in California during the 2011 and 2012 elections. Coca-Cola was the top contributor from this industry overall, with $3.7 million, followed by the American Beverage Association’s $593,799.

The soda tax bill was heard in the Senate Committee on Governance & Finance on April 24. Take a look at the food and beverage industry’s contributions to members of this committee with’s Legislative Committee Analysis Tool (L-CAT). Choose “California” and “Senate Committees” and “Governance & Finance” from the dropdown menus. Finally, under the dropdown menu for “See Contributions by Sector,” select “General Business.” The resulting page will list the contributions from donors within the selected economic sector, compared to each committee member’s total contributions.

The second table on this page lists the committee’s top contributors by industry. You will see that General Trade Unions were the top industry contributors to committee members in the 2012 cycle.

The third table lists the top 20 contributors to committee members from the selected sector (in this case General Business). Walgreens was the top contributor in 2012, with $23,350 total given to six of the committee members. Neither the American Beverage Association, Coca-Cola, nor PepsiCo were among the top 20 contributors from the general business sector. To see which committee members received contributions from a particular industry, click on the “See Records” link next to the industry contributions in the Top 20 Contributors Table.

It’s easy to dive deeper and see who gave what to whom. Simply click on the committee member’s name to see all of their contributions during the most recent election cycle. The resulting page will show the office, district, party affiliation, incumbency status, election status, and general election votes. In addition to this basic information, the page also lists the legislator’s top 20 individual contributors and top 15 industry contributors from the selected election cycle. To really pinpoint specific giving, use Table 3 to filter contributions to a particular legislator by an entire industry.

Image by nicoleleec via Flickr