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With Bloomberg’s help, soda tax advocates have slim edge in campaign support

SANTA FE – Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has made a $400,000 cash donation to the political committee supporting the proposed tax on sugary beverages in Santa Fe, bringing his investment in the effort to more than $1.13 million.

With Bloomberg’s help, the campaign in favor of a 2-cents-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks to fund early childhood education programs so far has outraised opponents of the tax despite contributions of cash and in-kind services totaling $1.15 million from the American Beverage Association to fight the ballot measure.

The latest campaign finance reports, filed Tuesday, show that Pre-K for Santa Fe, supporting the tax, has received about $1.47 million in cash and services. Better Way for Santa Fe & Pre-K, against the tax, reported raising about $1.34 million in cash and services so far.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

With the huge sums flying around in the campaign, residents have been deluged with mailers, campaign phone calls, at-home visits and radio ads, as well at ads aired on Albuquerque television stations. The special election on the tax, called by the City Council, takes place next week, on May 2, and early voting is underway.

The financial statement filed Tuesday by Pre-K for Santa Fe says that Bloomberg — besides making his first cash donation — added to his total of in-kind contributions, which now amount to $734,000 over the course of the campaign. Bloomberg contributed nearly $250,000 worth of “media,” $138,000 in “research,” and more than $16,000 in “consulting” since the last reporting date on April 7.

The group also got a $40,000 cash donation from Voqal Usa Philanthropy of Boulder, Colo., where a soda tax will go into effect later this year. Organizers in the Land of Enchantment, an Albuquerque non-profit, contributed more than $87,500 in in-kind service for canvassing and printing costs.

Pre-K for Santa Fe said in a statement, “We are… grateful for the support of Michael Bloomberg for our effort to bring Pre-K to Santa Fe’s kids who can’t afford it. You’ve seen what we’re up against: an industry that will spend endless amounts of money to protect their profits. Bloomberg’s funding helps us get local voices out and ensure we are not drowned out.”

Better Way for Santa Fe & Pre-K, opposing the tax, reported its latest cash donation of $180,000 from the American Beverage Association. The ABA has now contributed $980,000 in cash and $172,363 worth of in-kind contributions — for legal fees, consulting, and advertising. The ABA is Better Way’s only cash contributor so far, but in a statement to the Journal the group touted local support.

“Better Way for Santa Fe & Pre-K, a coalition of over hundred small businesses, community organizations, and local residents, continues to invest the resources necessary to educate voters on the negative impact of the beverage tax on working families and local businesses, how the tax would increase prices on everyday beverages, and on the pro-tax PAC’s questionable campaign tactics.” the PAC said in a statement.

A smaller player in the election, Smart Progress New Mexico, appears raised about $13,000 to oppose the tax on sugary drinks.

Both sides are accusing the other of questionable campaign tactics, misrepresenting the facts, and outright lies.

Coca-Cola Bottling of Santa Fe gave Better Way $5,550 worth of in-kind services, which included employee time and printing signs, this reporting period. That brings its total contributions to the group to nearly $52,000 to date. Coca-Cola North America provided Better Way with another $1,438 worth of in-kind services, bringing its contributions to date to more than $26,000.

Better Way reported spending $376,051 during the reporting period, $298,000 with Waterfront Strategies of Washington, D.C for “media.” Other expenses included $35,000 with Blue Front Strategies for digital ads, and $25,649 with Blue Sky Media for print ads. Both companies are based in Washington D.C. Better Way now has $6,367 left in the bank.

Pre-K for Santa Fe reported spending about $236,000 in the last few weeks. Much of that, $192,340, went to Canal Partners, of Washington, D.C., for media buys. It also spent more than $22,000 with the Rodney, Dickason, Sloan, Atkin & Robb law firm of Albuquerque; $28,000 with Fairbank, Maslin, Maulin, Metz & Associations, of Oakland, Calif., for focus groups; about $23,800 with Stones’ Phones of Rancho Mirage, Calif., for “phone program”; roughly $17,900 with SWEL, of Albuquerque, for campaign management, printing, signs, email services and other materials; and roughly $14,400 with MAP, of Albuquerque, most of it for mailers. Pre-K for Santa Fe still has $115,500 cash on hand.