How did Berkeley pass a soda tax? Bloomberg's cash didn't hurt

It's no secret that the American Beverage Association spent a lot of money to defeat soda tax initiatives in California this election season.

As local media reported, ABA ads blanketed a Berkeley train station in the weeks leading up to Election Day. They were "plastered on the walls across from the trains, pinned to spaces near the ticket machine, and laid out on the floor of the station," according to Berkeleyside.com.

So the grass-roots coalition in Berkeley, Calif., that succeeded in getting 75 percent of voters to support the first-of-its-kind soda tax in the nation is celebrating.

"It was a thrilling campaign, and I think it will be the first of many," Larry Tramutola, a consultant to the coalition, said during a post-election debrief Wednesday.

The measure imposes a penny-per-ounce tax on most sugar-sweetened beverages. The coalition says it studied how the American Beverage Association worked to defeat a similar sugar-sweetened-beverage tax initiative in Richmond, Calif., in 2012.

"Knowing the opposition, and knowing what they were likely to do, was important," Tramutola says.

One thing that most likely helped the Berkeley coalition succeed: sizable infusions of cash.

The American Heart Association and the Center for Science in the Public Interest put their support behind the effort. And perhaps the most notable donor: Michael Bloomberg — who, during his tenure as the mayor of New York City, pushed for limits on big, sugary drinks — stepped in during the final weeks of this election season with donations. Reports suggest Bloomberg gave $370,000 during the course of the campaign.

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