A treasure trove of emails released by hactivist site DC Leaks reveals that corporate giant Coca-Cola has launched a worldwide campaign to stop the imposition of soda taxes that many believe could help curb consumption of sugary drinks that contribution to obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Ninjas For Health is reporting via Medium that hacked internal company emails show that the effort is massive and coordinated, taking aim at public policy initiatives at the local, state, national and international levels.
The emails show exchanges between Coca-Cola vice president Michael Goltzman and Capricia Marshall, a long-time Clinton operative who is currently working as a communications consultant for both Coca-Cola and the presidential campaign of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
A global effort to keep people fat and diseased
The group said it was already aware that Coca-Cola and others like the American Beverage Association had spent large amounts of money to lobby against soda tax policies. However, it noted that the newly released emails – the hacking of which Ninjas For Health says it had nothing to do with – “illuminate the inner-workings of the soda industry’s coordinated political strategy.” In short, the group says, the emails lay bare the soda industry’s united effort against measures aimed at improving public health.
The emails lay out a range of actions that the company is taking to oppose soda taxes in American cities including Philadelphia, San Francisco, Richmond, Va., Oakland, Calif., and others. Also, Coca-Cola has mounted campaigns to oppose state efforts in West Virginia, Connecticut, New York and Iowa, as well as a strategy to thwart federal regulation that may include soda taxes.
Coca-Cola has also engaged on an international level to oppose the World Health Organization, which supports soda taxation, and efforts in France, the UK, Israel and Bosnia to impose taxes. In all, the emails make it clear that Coca-Cola and the sugary soda beverage industry are planning to commit a sizeable portion of the billions in profits they reap each year to stave off any attempt to cut into those profits. And while that is ordinarily what you’d expect a major corporation to do on behalf of its shareholders, this industry is at least partially responsible for the sad state of health around the world, and in particular in the West.
The lobbying strategies are broad: Coordinated messaging, influencing of reporters, facing off against scientific findings, trolling of social media influencers, building astroturf coalitions and heavily lobbying every level of government. Astroturfing, by the way, is the process of masking the sponsor of a message to make it appear as though it has come from, and is supported by, grassroots participants.
In one email instance, Ninjas For Health said that Coca-Cola planned to target a reporter, “to build her brain around our strategy.”
It appears as though, in this increasingly health-conscious world where organic food sales have been skyrocketing for years, the soda industry believes it can convince people that it is trustworthy enough to become authoritative on all levels of public policy-making, but especially when it comes to taxation issues. It wants to be seen as being part of the solution, not as the problem like the tobacco industry.
‘Really??? After all we’ve done?’
As for Coca-Cola’s ties to the Clinton campaign, The Daily Caller reported that executives there fumed after candidate Clinton said this spring that she supported Philadelphia’s push to impose a soda tax (which passed, by the way).
“‘Really??? After all we’ve done?’ was one Coca-Cola bigwig’s response to Capricia Marshall, a longtime Clinton crony and major campaign fundraiser,” the site reported. In all, The DC reported, Coca-Cola has contributed between $5 and $10 million to the Clinton Foundation.
According to the leaked emails, after Coke execs complained about Clinton’s support for the tax, they were assured via back channels that she actually wasn’t supporting it – which is typical for Clinton, who says one thing to one audience, and another thing to the next.
J. D. Heyes