Sunlight Foundation Reporting Group: Food and media companies donated generously to lawmakers opposing food marketing guidelines for kids
Last summer, a bipartisan group of House members from Pennsylvania wrote federal agencies complaining that proposed guidelines restricting the marketing of unhealthy food to children marked “an alarming regulatory overreach.” They emphasized their sugary roots in “the leading confectionary producing state in the nation.”
Indeed, Pennsylvania is home to the 117-year-old Hershey Company, maker of the ubiquitous Hershey’s kiss. But what the lawmakers from the Keystone State didn’t say was that they had other “constituents”—out-of-state campaign cash constituents, many of them Washington-based trade associations.
The massive lobbying push by food and media interests against the controversial guidelines appeared to reach its goal last weekend as Congress voted to delay the guidelines as part the budget deal. Tucked into the massive bill: A measure, backed by opponents of the guidelines, calling for the government to study the costs of any advertising limitations before implementing them. That will effectively put off any efforts to issuing the voluntary guidelines on the marketing of foods high in fat, sugar and sodium to children.
The Pennsylvanians' letter, sent July 18, was one of two sent by members of Congress to head off the marketing guidelines that the Sunlight Foundation obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. An analysis using transparencydata.com of campaign contributors to the two groups of lawmakers reveals that some of the groups lobbying against the ad guidelines have plenty of chits to collect from members of Congress.
The 15 Pennsylvania members of Congress who signed the letter raising concerns about the guidelines have together collected at least $546,765 in campaign contributions from interests that reported lobbying against restrictions on marketing unhealthy food to kids. The contributions included $159,291 from the National Cable Television Association (NCTA), $153,500 from the National Restaurant Association, and $61,660 from the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB).