Former New York mayor takes his war on sugary ‘soda’ to town of Berkeley
By Rosa Prince
Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York, is taking his war against fizzy drinks to California by funding a campaign to impose a tax on sugary beverages.
The billionaire businessman, who was made an honorary knight by the Queen this month, waged an ultimately unsuccessful effort to introduce a ban on the sale of supersized soft drinks in New York City during his time as mayor.
He has now donated thousands of dollars to a group in the town of Berkeley which is fighting to persuade voters to impose a one cent an ounce tax on fizzy drink – or soda as it is called in the US.
So far he has given $85,000 (£53,000) and is expected to donate more as the campaign continues. The measure will be voted on next month.
The contribution was welcomed by the group, which had been heavily outspent by its opponents in the drinks industry, having raised only $135,000 (£84,000) by last week.
In contrast, those seeking to block the new law had already spent $1.4 million (£870,000), the equivalent of $12 (£7.46) per voter in a town of only 117,000.
Howard Wolfson, one of Mr Bloomberg’s advisers, told the New York Times that the money would be spent on campaign literature and efforts to persuade those who support the measure to turn out on election day.
He added: “We want to come in and try to equalise the spending disparity, which is enormous.”
Last year, Mr Bloomberg contributed nearly $10 million (£6.2 million) to a successful campaign to tax fizzy drinks in Mexico. Retailers say sales have plunged since then.
The 72-year-old former Republican who became an independent mayor has contributed large sums of money to a number of causes, including gun control and the environment.