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Posted at 4:25 PM ET, 05/19/2010

Hospital mistakenly listed among anti-soda tax groups

By Washington Post editors

As the D.C. budget season heads toward its frenzied conclusion this month, here's a bit of free advice to all those trade associations and advocacy campaigns currently swirling around the John A. Wilson Building: When you start compiling lists of organizations that have signed up to be a part of your coalition, make sure they actually know about and have agreed to support your cause.

Case in point, the well-funded group behind the No D.C. Beverage Tax campaign. As DCist previously reported, despite having a rather low-rent looking website (all the better to give the illusion of grassroots legitimacy, perhaps?), this is a coalition of several dozen businesses that oppose Mary Cheh's proposed soda tax.

It's being bankrolled by the bottlers who are members of the American Beverage Association (read: Coke and Pepsi), and is represented publicly by Ellen Valentino, who by day is the main point of contact for the local Md./D.C./Delaware branch of the powerful trade group.

The anti-soda tax campaign has enough money to have been running numerous print and radio ads locally, as well as robo-calling D.C. residents on the issue. But when the website first debuted earlier this month, among the initial list of coalition members, which is made up almost entirely of convenience stores, liquor stores and chain restaurants that sell a lot of soda, one name really stood out: United Medical Center. Which is of course a hospital.

A hospital that is partially owned by the D.C. government and is currently in a state of serious financial disarray, no less. (The District recently abandoned plans to seize control from owner Specialty Hospital of Washington entirely, but will likely continue to pursue some kind of receivership).

Despite its precarious finances, this still didn't make a lot of sense. [Continue reading this piece by Sommer Mathis here at DCist].

Sommer Mathis is editor-in-chief of . The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

By Washington Post editors  | May 19, 2010; 4:25 PM ET
Categories:  D.C., HotTopic, Local blog network  
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It's great to see such important coverage in the Post. The soda lobby, aka the American Beverage Association, has been blanketing the airwaves and newspapers with glitzy ads bemoaning the issue. Now, we find out that their local support - much like their argument - is a facade. For weeks, such ads have continued all the while listing their so-called community support. In fact, it's great to see Ellen Valentino's name in print because one cannot find out from anywhere who exactly is behind their campaign. As a result, it's easy to summarize their community support in one phrase: smoke and mirrors.

That's why I have co-founded a real community-based organization of over 30 local businesses, organizations and associations in favor of the soda tax. Why? As the New York Times wisely argued yesterday on the cover of their business page, a soda tax is one of the best mechanisms on the table to not only fund healthy schools, but fight obesity nationwide.

I encourage every reader of this article to stand against astro-turf marketing and sign our petition in favor of fully funding the DC Healthy Schools Act at:

Sean S. Miller
Education Director
Earth Day Network

Posted by: SeanMiller | May 20, 2010 9:42 AM | Report abuse

It's surprising that a company that has already spent $5.4 million dollars on lobbying this year would make such grievous errors as this one. They've tried to squash similar taxes in Philadelphia and New York, I wonder what kind of tactics they used in those cities.

Posted by: magagie | May 20, 2010 10:27 AM | Report abuse

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