Your money or your life
Food companies fork over the dough for 2012 campaign.
The food and beverage industry has already donated over $7.9 million to federal candidates, parties and outside political groups during the 2012 election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, demonstrating its power and influence in Washington.
Critics say that first lady Michelle Obama has made the administration vulnerable to the powerful food lobby in her push to address childhood obesity through the Let’s Move campaign.
Reuters reported a meeting in the White House with executives from companies including Kellogg, General Mills, and Nestle USA, Let’s Move backed off of its messaging against diet choices and began to emphasize exercise as a means to end childhood obesity.
It’s not just the White House being bribed, of course, politicans of both parties have their hands out.
The debate over obesity, especially among children, is not limited to the executive branch. Congress spent this past year embroiled in debate and under pressure from food lobby groups over food marketing methods aimed and children.
The debate over school lunches has also found its way to the national theater. Last November, after intense pressure from lobby groups, both French fries and pizza remained on the Agriculture Department lunch standards, with the tomato paste on pizza considered as a vegetable.
A new set of national standards for school lunches was approved this January, and it places stipulations on sodium and fat levels in food.
State and local governments are also responding with rigid standards. Students in Chicago are no longer allowed to bring their own lunches from home. They are required to only eat the school lunch.
As the fight continues over who controls food choices — the government or the consumer — money seems to be the name of the game.
Microsoft once did almost no lobbying in Washington and was proud to boast of that. The government announced the beginning of an anti-trust investigation and of course, eventually sued them and won. Microsoft is now one of the largest contributors to politicians of all stripes. Lesson learned.
Here’s a recounting of what happened to Microsoft:
For many years before the lawsuit, Microsoft had virtually no Washington “presence.” It had a large office in the suburbs, mainly concerned with selling software to the government. Bill Gates resisted the notion that a software company needed to hire a lot of lobbyists and lawyers. He didn’t want anything special from the government, except the freedom to build and sell software. If the government would leave him alone, he would leave the government alone.
At first this was regarded (at least in Washington) as naive. Grown-up companies hire lobbyists. What’s this guy’s problem? Then it was regarded as foolish. This was not a game. There were big issues at stake. Next it came to be seen as arrogant: Who the hell does Microsoft think it is? Does it think it’s too good to do what every other company of its size in the world is doing?
Ultimately, there even was a feeling that, in refusing to play the Washington game, Microsoft was being downright unpatriotic. Look, buddy, there is an American way of doing things, and that American way includes hiring lobbyists, paying lawyers vast sums by the hour, throwing lavish parties for politicians, aides, journalists, and so on. So get with the program.
So that’s what Microsoft did. It moved its government affairs office out of distant Chevy Chase, Md., and into the downtown K Street corridor. It bulked up on lawyers and hired the best-connected lobbyists. Soon Microsoft was coming under criticism for being heavy-handed in its attempts to buy influence. But the sad thing is that it seems to have worked. Microsoft is no longer Public Enemy No. 1. No one blamed it for the recent Japanese tsunami, for example, or demanded hearings on its role in the housing industry collapse.
Best of all, the finger of blame has moved on — to Google, which now gets the blame for everything.
And so it goes.
UPDATE: A 199 article from the Washington Post has more details here, if you’re interested.