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PepsiCo Distances Itself From Another Right-Wing Group: ‘Currently Not A Member’ Of The Heartland Institute

By Brad Johnson  

"PepsiCo Distances Itself From Another Right-Wing Group: ‘Currently Not A Member’ Of The Heartland Institute"

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It was announced yesterday that PepsiCo, a corporate leader in the fight against manmade climate change, has ceased its funding of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a right-wing climate-denial organization.

PepsiCo has now also admitted to being a past funder of the climate-denial think tank Heartland Institute. In a statement to ThinkProgress Green, the $57-billion food and beverages giant indicated that its funding was for Heartland’s efforts against soda and junk food taxes, not for its promotion that climate change is a “myth.” A PepsiCo spokeswoman explained that the company “is currently not a member of the Heartland Institute”:

PepsiCo was a member of the Heartland Institute specifically related to taxes on the consumption of food and beverage products. PepsiCo is currently not a member of the Heartland Institute nor did we engage with them on climate issues while a member.

The Heartland Institute has argued that “sin taxes” on soda, liquor, or cigarettes “lead to smuggling across state lines” and “gang activity.” An article attacking state-level soda taxes questioned “how bad the obesity problem is.” Instead of improving public health with taxes on products that degrade children’s health, Heartland argues, we should be “privatizing non-core functions of government.” The institute even railed against governmental “obesity police” for proposing voluntary children’s advertising guidelines for the junk-food industry.

An internal document leaked from the anti-science group showed that PepsiCo gave at least $5000 in tax-deductible contributions in 2010 for Heartland’s Budget and Tax News Initiative. It is unknown whether PepsiCo gave earlier contributions. PepsiCo’s public page listing its charitable contributions in 2010 does not list the Heartland Institute as a recipient. PepsiCo has spent nearly $20 million on Washington DC lobbying since 2009.

PepsiCo’s support for Heartland’s attacks on public-health-driven policy is not an isolated incident. In an article at the City University of New York Law Review, public health lawyer Michele Simon argues that PepsiCo is “coopting the scientific conversation around public health and diet.” As a member of the industry front groups Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative and the Sensible Food Policy Coalition, PepsiCo has opposed even voluntary regulation of the junk food that drives PepsiCo’s profits and America’s obesity epidemic.

Simon argues that PepsiCo’s hiring of internationally renowned public health experts like Derek Yach and Dr. George Mensah is an attempt to subvert public-health science rather than to make their business healthier.

PepsiCo’s past willingness to support the Heartland Institute — which even argues against the health threat of cigarette smoking — does raise questions about the earnestness of PepsiCo’s pledge to improve the public-health impact of their products.

However, PepsiCo has one of the strongest public stances on the threat of man-made global warming in corporate America:

It is clear that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases have an adverse impact on global temperatures, weather patterns and the frequency and severity of extreme weather and natural disasters. Because these changes could have an impact on the availability or pricing of certain commodities that are necessary for our products, we are continuously working to address climate change, from scaling up the company’s use of renewable fuel sources to reducing energy consumption.

In 2009, PepsiCo joined the Ceres company network, pledging its “executive-level commitment to improve environmental and social performance” and “public reporting on sustainability strategy, commitments and performance.” As a member of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, PepsiCo lobbied in favor of the American Clean Energy and Security Act, comprehensive climate legislation that would have dramatically advanced the future of global public health.

The PepsiCo spokesperson contacted by ThinkProgress Green did not made any public commitments about future funding for the climate-denial think tank.

NOTE: One in a series of posts about the Heartland Institute’s inner workings, from internal documents acquired by ThinkProgress Green. ThinkProgress is among several publications to have published documents attributed to the Heartland Institute and sent to us from an anonymous and then unknown source. The source later revealed himself. Heartland Institute has issued several press releases claiming that one document (“2012 Climate Strategy”) is fake and asserting other claims regarding the other documents. ThinkProgress has taken down the “2012 Climate Strategy” document as it determines the document’s authenticity.

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