With fewer than three weeks until Berkeley voters decide on Measure D, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg donated $85,000 to the Yes on Measure D campaign Wednesday.
The donation is the greatest singular contribution in support of the measure — which would establish a 1-cent-per-ounce tax on distributors of certain sugary beverages — by $62,000. The contribution follows several large donations this week to the campaign. The American Heart Association donated $23,000, the second-largest singular amount, while the Center for Science in the Public Interest donated $15,000.
“It’s fantastic that he would do this — he truly cares about public health,” said Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, who said he donated $500 to the campaign. “Michael Bloomberg understands that what happens in Berkeley travels throughout the United States and becomes conventional wisdom.”
As of Thursday, more than 90 percent of contributions to Yes on D have been $500 or less. The campaign has received about $264,585, according to city documents.
“It’s not just the donations — it’s the public health advocates nationwide supporting Berkeley,” said Joshua Daniels, co-chair of the campaign. “The likely success of the Berkeley measure has made Measure D a tipping point for this issue throughout the country.”
Roger Salazar, No on Measure D spokesperson, is not surprised by the donation, which he said is part of a nationally coordinated effort to “attack” small businesses and consumers.
“They’re trying to paint Berkeley as some sort of launching post, even though it’s really the last stand for beverage-tax advocates,” said Salazar, adding that similar efforts in other cities and states have failed. “I don’t think that anyone at the national level would see what’s going on at Berkeley as a trendsetter.”
The No on Measure D campaign has received $1.4 million, the majority of which came from the American Beverage Association. Supporters of the measure say this is the largest amount of money ever donated to a Berkeley campaign.
As mayor of New York City, Bloomberg proposed a controversial ban on the sale of sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces, which was struck down by the state’s highest court in June. His foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, also donated $10 million in support of an anti-obesity campaign in Mexico promoting soda-tax policies.
“We supported the Mexico Soda Tax and now Measure D because they are good public policies proved to improve children’s health,” said Howard Wolfson, Bloomberg’s advisor, in a statement.
The Yes on D campaign intends to spend the new money on mailers, promotion and other materials, according to Daniels.
“We’re still being outspent seven to one,” Daniels said. “But I do think this reflects the fact that folks are watching Berkeley and care about our success.”