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October 20, 2016

Daily News Roundup: Bloomberg and Arnolds Take on Big Soda in Tax Fight

Billionaire Donors Pour Millions Into Soda-Tax Fray: Michael Bloomberg and Laura and John Arnold are providing major backing to efforts in four cities to levy a tax on sugary beverages, Vox writes. As part of their portfolios on public health, the philanthropists' foundations have contributed a combined $11.6 million to pro-soda-tax campaigning as voters in San Francisco, Oakland, and Albany, Calif., and Boulder, Colo., weigh ballot measures to tax beverage distributors. The issue pits the billionaire donors against the soda industry, which has spent tens of millions of dollars lobbying against such measures amid a growing debate over the role of sugary drinks in raising obesity rates.

Young Scions Plowing Old Money Into Impact Investments: The Financial Times (subscription) reports on the ImPact, a newly formed network of young heirs to some of America's biggest family fortunes who are pledging to devote their dynastic wealth to socially and environmentally minded investing. Spearheaded by 37-year-old Justin Rockefeller and modeled on the Giving Pledge, the ImPact commits participants to "explore the impact of all of my investments and invest to create measurable social benefit.” Other founding members include Liesel Pritzker Simmons, who controls a chunk of the Hyatt hotel fortune; Jason Ingle, a great-great-grandson of Henry Ford; and Kevin Phillips, who heads a family property business in North Carolina.

Annenberg Foundation Backs "Cougar Crossing" for Calif. Freeway: The Los Angeles-based philanthropy promised to match up to $1 million in grants by other organizations toward building a bridge over one of Southern California's busiest highways so mountain lions and other wildlife can safely cross, reports the Los Angeles Times. The pledge aims to jump-start a fundraising effort by area preservationists for a span over Route 101 near the Santa Monica Mountains, home to a small cougar population that is hemmed in by freeways and urban development and needs access to additional habitats and breeding opportunities. The foundation, though best known for supporting education and the arts, also gives extensively for animal-protection causes.

Small Nonprofit Theater Embroiled in Battle Over Broadway Show: New York stage group Ars Nova and its for-profit partners in producing Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812 have fallen out over the big-budget musical, with repercussions spilling into the nonprofit's boardroom and fundraising, writes The New York Times. Ars Nova, which commissioned and incubated the show inspired by Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace, says it was denied a promised individual production credit on theater programs and has threatened legal action. Lead producer Howard Kagan, a former Wall Street executive and a top Ars Nova donor, has resigned from the nonprofit's board. Ars Nova claims the show's commercial producers are trying to prevent cast members from performing at the organization's annual fundraiser.