Penguin: Commercial Co-Optation (Corruption) of Civil Rights & Non-Profits Across USA — and Mayor Bloomberg Did the Right Thing?

Civil Society, Commerce, Corruption
Who, Me?
Who, Me?

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Corrupting Civil Rights: Sham Colleges, Loan Usury, and Soda

New York City MayBloomberg and the Eagleor Michael Bloomberg recently made national headlines by attempting to regulate big, sugary drinks.  He spearheaded a new municipal law that greatly curbs the sale of such beverages over 16 ounces in size, and mandated calorie counts as part of the labeling.

But Bloomberg suffered a major setback when New York State Supreme Court Justice Milton Tingling (I am not making that name up) struck down the law before it could take effect.  Now a torturous appeals processes lies ahead.

Staunching the Bloomberg bill was an enormous victory for the beverage industry.  But this story is about far more than the failings of a paternalistic politician, about multinationals interfering in public policy, or about rampant obesity in America.  It’s also about how many America’s civil rights organizations have been co-opted by corporate interests.

The very day after Tingling announced his decision, The New York Times published a devastating article detailing how “dozens of Hispanic and African-American civil rights groups, health advocacy organizations, and business associations have joined the beverage industry in opposing soda regulation around the country in recent years.”

It turns out the beverage industry has been lavishing money upon these organizations.  According to the article, it has given tens of millions of dollars over the last decade to non-profits that serve African Americans and Hispanics, including: “National Hispana Leadership Institute, scholarships for local chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, financial literacy classes offered by the National Puerto Rican Coalition, and programs from the National Hispanic Medical Association.”

It seems all of that spending paid off when two of the biggest civil rights groups in New York City, the Hispanic Federation and the local chapter of the N.A.A.C.P., repaid the favor by filing an amicus brief supporting the beverage industry’s successful challenge to the Bloomberg’s law.  It also echoed the industry’s success from last year, when it spent millions to buy-off African American and Latino leaders in Richmond, California, who joined them to beat back a proposed penny per ounce tax on sugary beverages.

Read full article with many examples.