- After five municipalities passed soda taxes in last week's elections, industry groups realized that billionaire-backed activists could have had the upper-hand on this issue, Associated Press reported.
- Billionaire Michael Bloomberg may not have won the battle to limit the size of sugary beverages while he served as mayor of New York, but Bloomberg Philanthropies backed the campaigns that successfully passed the per-ounce taxes on sugary beverages. Laura and John Arnold, the latter of whom oversaw a hedge fund, were also behind these campaigns.
- On the pro-soda tax side in Oakland and San Francisco, campaign contributions totaled at least $22 million this year, primarily from Bloomberg and the Arnolds. But despite the sizable sum, tax opponents received even more, totaling about $30 million.
Bloomberg says he is working to support grassroots campaigns rather than have his philanthropic organization make a national push for soda taxes. The soda tax cause aligns with his own beliefs, as is reflected by his efforts as New York mayor. He still may not spend as much as industry groups did to oppose the taxes, but he did give smaller soda tax support groups the leverage they needed to compete with the American Beverage Association and other anti-soda-tax entities.
Industry groups still seem to have deeper pockets than tax supporters overall, but their larger investments in Oakland and San Francisco did not guarantee them a win. The question is whether billionaires' dollars can go farther and whether the voices of the activists they financially support are louder than the industry's.
However, it's also key to remember that like other controversial issues approved by voters before this such as marijuana and gay marriage legalization, popular public opinion seems to be turning to favor these taxes. That could mean, regardless of how much either side spends, many voters will begin to support soda taxes anyway.