Melvin (left) & Ray Rogers
The BMG New York Bureau has sprung into action. I moseyed down to 25 Washington Street #302 in the DUMBO section of Brooklyn this afternoon, introduced myself to Ray Rogers, and chatted with him for 90 minutes about his campaign to hold the Coca Cola corporation, and its former General Counsel Deval Patrick, responsible for the company’s criminal behavior, as Mr. Rogers sees it, in Colombia, India, Mexico, Ghana, El Salvador, Turkey, Indonesia, and elsewhere, not to mention the marketing of “nutritionally worthless and damaging products” to children.
“He has not only tolerated and defended companies involved in widespread labor, human rights, and environmental abuses on a worldwide scale, he was one of the highest paid officials involved in making those policies,” Rogers said of Patrick. “No executive of Coca Cola or any of the big oil companies should ever hold any position of public trust, particularly such a high elected office as Governor,” he added. “Our goal is to hold Mr. Patrick accountable and hopefully make sure he is not elected Governor,” he said.
Corporate Campaign Inc.
Rogers said the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke is a project of Corporate Campaign, Inc., a private business he established in 1981. The small operation, staffed in part by volunteers, one of whom I met while waiting for Rogers, and guarded by Melvin, a cat rescued by Rogers, survives on a combination of speaking fees, consulting work for a variety of clients, primarily unions, and donations, Rogers said. Click here for a picture of their office building, which shakes when trains pass on the nearby Manhattan Bridge, and here for a picture of the front door.
Rogers said he established the venture in 1981 as, “a mechanism to empower workers and community groups.” Past projects have included efforts to suport the rights of workers, battle corrupt unions, and keep oil companies out of the Artic National Wildlife Refuge, he said. “We get involved in issues based on what is right and what is wrong,” not based on political party affiliation, he added. He confirmed that the company had paid to print the anti-Patrick flyers that have elicited so much recent discussion here (indeed, he said printing costs are one of his company’s primary expenses). He vehemently denied that he has received any money from any of Patrick’s political rivals in the coming election.
Rogers, who said he was karate chopped in the neck from behind and then dragged to the floor by six beefy security guards while in the middle of delivering a speech as a proxy representative of 3,000 shares at the 2001 Coca Cola annual general meeting — as Deval Patrick watched from the stage, he said — charged that Patrick’s severance payments and Coke’s continuing pension obligations to its former employee make the candidate beholden to the corporation. “This guy who supposedly took the high road then got $2.1 million for a no-show consulting job in 2005. To me, that is a big campaign contribution that skirts the election laws,” he said.
Finally, Rogers said he was not concerned that his own activities might violate Massachusetts campaign finance laws. “We’re not involved in promoting a candidate,” he said.
So there you have it: the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke. I met Rogers just as he returned from a trip to the airport to collect a rental car for a drive tonight to Boston. A third Globe columnist — stay tuned for another installment in the Battle of Morrissey Blvd. on this subject — called while I was in the office. Rogers should be in town Wednesday. The Patrick campaign can consider itself warned.