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Junk Food Giants Spend Billions Brainwashing Consumers & Buying Politicians

March 12, 2004 by the Boston Globe

Trash Food Makers Fatten GOP Coffers

by Derrick Z. Jackson

FOR THE PHOTO-OP on Tuesday, the United States became a fat farm. "We're
just too darned fat, ladies and gentlemen, and we're going to do something
about it," Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said.

He said this as he released new statistics showing that obesity will
probably become our number one preventable killer next year, on its way to
killing 500,000 people a year. The next day on the "Today Show," Thompson
vowed that his department "is going to take an all-out, aggressive,
offensive effort" against the epidemic. He went so far as to claim that the
pharaohs of fat were loosening their bonds on the minds of America's youth.
"Kraft food has come out . . . with all healthy foods. Pepsi Cola, Coca
Cola, all of these companies are starting to step up. McDonald's has just
stopped super-sizing. So we're starting to have an impact."

As we know, photo-ops are shows laden with the political equivalent of
hydrogenated fats, meant to disguise the fact that there is no meat on the
bones. Even as Thompson spoke, the pharaohs were on Capitol Hill, sitting in
glee as the House voted, 276-139, to ban lawsuits against trash-food
companies. The bill's sponsor, Republican Ric Keller of Florida, said, "The
food industry is under attack and in the cross hairs of the same trial
lawyers who went after big tobacco."

Unsaid was that Keller and his fellow Republicans were in the cross hairs of
the food industry. Among Keller's current top five political contributors
are the corporation that runs the Olive Garden and Red Lobster chains,
Outback Steakhouse, and Disney (and we all know how healthy the food is at
Disney World).

>From 1995 to 2002, according to Common Cause, food and grocery companies and
restaurants gave more than $19.3 million in soft money to Republican causes
compared with $5.5 million for Democrats.

Many companies give to both parties, but there is no mistaking their
political loyalties. Coca-Cola and affiliated donors, for instance, gave
$807,000 to Democrats but $1.74 million to Republicans. PepsiCo gave
$255,000 to the Democrats but $1.7 million to Republicans. Nestle gave the
Democrats $59,000 but gave the Republicans $208,000.Burger King gave $20,000
to Democrats but $111,000 to Republicans.

Of the $26 million contributed by restaurant companies and food processors
in the 2000 elections, 71 percent of the money went to Republicans. The
National Restaurant Association, Philip Morris (with a constellation of
trash food in its resume, such as Kraft), Outback, Coca-Cola, Pepsi,
McDonald's, Waffle House, Pizza Hut, Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Burger King,
Cracker Barrel, and General Mills are among the top contributors on lists
compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics that gave 77 percent or more
of their money to Republican causes.

You probably never knew that doughnuts were a peculiarly Republican trash
food. But in the current election cycle, Dunkin' Donuts and Krispy Kreme
have both given 100 percent of their money to Republicans.

This is more than whether companies should be shielded from lawsuits. In a
vacuum, it is an individual choice to put an apple or a Krispy Kreme in your
mouth. It is about a larger war the fat pharaohs, profiting on
easy-to-process sugars and starches, are waging to rearrange our brains to
make us think we need the Krispy Kreme. The House vote this week on legal
shields pales next to the oncoming cultural war over advertising.

Already, health advocates are calling for bans of trash food ads on
children's TV, the removal of soda and candy machines from schools, and
cigarette-like taxes on trash food. The House vote only fuels the culture
war instead of squelching it. As with cigarettes, the dawning upon us of the
health disaster of trash food and our sedentary lives took a while. Now that
it is here, advertising limitations or bans may be closer and more welcomed
than you think.

Thompson's braggadocio means very little given his paltry ammunition.
Thompson says he wants $440 million for obesity research. Well, the trash
food companies have already done their research, and their investment in
brainwashing makes the government look like it's holding a wilting single
stalk of asparagus in an avalanche of French fries.

In 2002 alone, McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, Subway, Taco Bell, Pizza
Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Applebee's, Starbucks, and Domino's Pizza spent
a combined $2.2 billion on advertising, according to Advertising Age.
McDonald's alone outspends government efforts to combat obesity. In 2002,
the fried burger company spent $548 million on advertising.

Thompson is right. The nation is too darned fat. Thompson's political allies
are also too fat in the wallet from the companies making us fat. Until that
changes, his decrees is just a hydrogenated photo op. All fat. No meat. And
definitely no fruit or vegetables.