As of Tuesday, May 17, 2016
Most of the funding for a political action committee opposed to Hood River County Measure 14-55 came directly from Nestlé, according to campaign finance reports.
The measure came before voters on the May 17 Primary Election ballot. It seeks to block large-scale water bottling companies from the county. Specifically, it would amend the Hood River County Charter to prohibit the production and transportation of bottled water of more than 1,000 gallons per day from any Hood River County water source.
With three contributions, Nestlé Waters North America has given $105,000 to Coalition for a Strong Gorge Economy. That makes up almost 90 percent of the coalition’s funding listed online at Oregon Secretary of State Office.
One contribution for $35,000, filed on April 25, was originally listed as coming from International Bottled Water Association, of which Nestlé is a member. However, that filing was amended on May 12 to show the funds came directly from Nestlé.
As of Tuesday, total contributions (cash and in-kind) for CSGE were $117,436, while proponent group Local Water Alliance had $96,295.
Supporters of 14-55 argue Nestlé illegally hid the campaign contributions to support a “front group” attacking the measure.
“This is nothing short of a fraudulent attempt by Nestlé to illegally hide that it is bankrolling the campaign against our measure,” said Aurora del Val, LWA campaign director.
Nestlé issued a statement on Saturday in support of IBWA, saying it has followed all campaign finance laws.
“We respect and comply with regulations and reporting for all our project locations, including our financial support to oppose to Measure 14-55,” Nestlé representatives said in the statement.
LWA members plan to file a complaint this week with the Secretary of State’s elections division.
Molly Woon, communications director at the state office, said the agency hadn’t received a financing complaint as of Monday morning. She explained that if the office finds violations in campaign funding, they can issue penalties on a committee.
“We have not received a complaint. If a violation is found, penalties may be issued depending upon the amount of the activity,” Woon explained.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.