June 25, 2012

Big Soda Hires PR Flack Behind “Harry And Louise” Ad To Fight Bloomberg Soda Ban

Big Soda Hires PR Flack Behind "Harry And Louise" Ad To Fight Bloomberg Soda BanLate last month, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed banning soda sales larger than sixteen ounces in the city’s restaurants, movie theaters, and street carts. This proposed ban has been highly controversial, and deserves a healthy debate (no pun intended).

But as with any other issue in modern American politics, big corporations and their lobbyists and public relations firms are seeking to control the debate by blanketing the airwaves and creating fake grassroots movements for their side of the argument.

Take the new group “New Yorkers for Beverage Choices.” The group bills itself as a “coalition of citizens, businesses, and community organizations who believe that consumers have the right to purchase beverages in whatever size they choose.”

But the “organizations” listed on the website simply run the gamut of businesses that sell soda, ranging from AMC Entertainment to the Chik-Fil-A.

We looked into the website to try to figure out who runs it. We discovered that the American Beverage Association — the chief lobbying association for Big Soda — has contracted with Goddard Claussen Public Affairs, a leading PR firm recently renamed Goddard Gunster, according to its 990 financial disclosure form the beverage association is required to file with the IRS.  

Then we performed a web domain search and found that Goddard owns nycbeveragechoices.com through GoDaddy domains.

Goddard Gunster is not a group of concerned citizens in New York City. It is based in Washington, D.C. Its founding partner is Ben Goddard, who ran the infamous “Harry and Louise” ad campaign that killed off health reform efforts under President Bill Clinton.

Again, we think that this issue deserves a rigorous debate. But it’s almost fitting that Big Soda is fighting a measure that is aimed at making people healthier by hiring a PR firm run by the man who killed a proposal that might have helped the people who were sickened by excessive soda drinking.