Ward offices across the city have received hundreds of calls from constituents opposed to Ald. George Cardenas’ (12) proposed penny-an-ounce tax on sugary drinks. The calls to aldermanic offices were prompted by an autocall to city households, which then give call recipients an opportunity to be transferred to their local alderman’s office.

The Illinois Beverage Association’s Executive Director, Jim Soreng, confirmed that it engineered the astroturf lobbying. “It’s a city-wide effort in response to Ald. Cardenas’ proposal,” Soreng told Aldertrack. While he wouldn’t say which wards the group targeted, he did say robocalls were made to registered voters.

But unlike most robocalls, which consist of a recorded message, these calls immediately direct the recipient to the ward office after the call’s message completed. IBA would not provide the audio or script of the call, but ward offices Aldertrack contacted said most calls routed to them opposed the tax.

At least eleven wards reported receiving the calls, and we found that Latino, low-income and border wards were hit especially hard.

Kevin Lamm, chief of staff for Ald. Milly Santiago (31) says the their office received more than 150 calls on the issue in the past few weeks. Staff from the 11th, 15th, 17th, 18th, 20th, 22nd and 41st Wards all confirmed receiving waves of calls in the last month. And yesterday, a representative of the Chicago Coalition Against Beverage Taxes, visited Ald. Rick Munoz’s (22) ward office to drop off literature.

Earlier this week, Cardenas told Aldertrack he won’t pursue his plan in the City Council, because he’s worried it could open the City up to a costly lawsuit. He said he and the Mayor agree it would be better for Springfield to pass the tax instead.