Nestle, the company aiming to build a bottled water plant in Cascade Locks, has funded a political action committee supporting its cause, according to campaign finance data.
Hood River County voters will decide on a measure aimed at blocking the plant’s construction in Oregon’s May 17 primary election. The ballot measure would restrict the production and transportation of bottled water to less than 1,000 gallons per day from any Hood River County water source.
Numbers from the Oregon Secretary of State's office show three cash contributions totaling $105,000 from Nestle Waters North America to the Coalition for a Strong Gorge Economy, a PAC opposing the ballot measure.
There were three separate contributions of $35,000 each; two came on May 6 and another in late April.
The first donation was listed as coming from the International Bottled Water Association, of which Nestle is a member, on April 25. The filing was amended on May 12 to indicate the funds had indeed come from Nestle.
Nestle issued a statement on Saturday expressing its support for the 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,” the statement reads, referring to the item on Tuesday’s ballot.
Aurora del Val, director of the Local Water Alliance, a group supporting the ballot measure, claims the late amendment to the Coalition’s campaign finance report is unfair.
“Until last week [Nestle] had not reported a dime in spending, when in reality they have funded the most expensive campaign in our county’s history,” del Val said.
A press release from del Val’s group calls Nestle’s actions “fraudulent” and “illegal.” It is uncertain if the Alliance will pursue any legal challenge against Nestle.
Del Val said competing with the Coalition for a Strong Gorge Economy has been “very frustrating.”
Nestle’s statement concludes by saying:
As this is a measure to ban our proposed business in Hood River County, we should naturally be engaged in the debate. We are very pleased that IBWA is leading this effort for us, and that a number of local individuals and organizations have also supported the opposition of this measure.”
City officials in Cascade Locks previously said the plant would bring 50 jobs to the community. The Cascade Locks City Council voted to support the proposed plant on April 12.