Money in Politics

GOPer Who Called Bottles of Water Bribes Got Thousands of Dollars From Bottled-Water Makers

Sen Roy Blunt (R-MO), seen here with a potential bribe, at a Sept. 16, 2020, subcommittee hearing on the coronavirus.


(Image: Pool photo by Anna Moneymaker via Getty Images.)

On Tuesday, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) helped kill a measure to let good samaritans give water to Americans forced to wait in long, hot, voting lines, suggesting it was tantamount to buying their votes. But it turns out Blunt himself has gotten a lot more from bottled water companies than just a single bottle.

Blunt’s vote came as the Senate began work on the For The People Act, the sweeping new voting-rights bill. Democrats are pushing the bill as a way to block dozens of state laws Republicans have enacted eroding ballot access and the right to vote, especially for people of color and other disenfranchised groups.

Blunt on Tuesday justified Republican bans against giving voters water by claiming they could be used to get voters to switch their choices at the ballot box. If Blunt truly believes a gift of such small value could sway one’s decisions, it raises questions about what Blunt has received from the people who make bottled water -- and what they got for it.

Executives who work at companies that make bottled water gave Blunt at least $19,000 between 1997 and March of 2006. That month, Blunt was working to pass a bill that would block states from requiring warning labels on food products such as bottled water containing arsenic.

Campaign donations weren’t the only money coming into the Blunt household at the time. Blunt’s wife was being paid by Altria -- which then owned Kraft Foods (maker of Fruit 2O flavored bottled water) -- to lobby Congress to pass the bill. (Blunt’s son was a lobbyist for a Missouri law firm, whose client list included Altria at the time of a 2005 NY Times piece on the Blunt family’s business ties.)

Through the years, Blunt has continued getting campaign donations from executives at Coca-Cola (maker of Dasani), Nestle (maker of Pure Life), and Pepsi (maker of Aquafina).

His wife reportedly still works as a lobbyist for what is now KraftHeinz, the fifth largest branded food and beverage company in the world, according to Yahoo finance.

It’s not clear whether Blunt is swayed by the campaign donations and lobbyist salaries that have enriched his family. He said, however, that he is opposing the For The People Act, with its expansion and protection of voting rights, because “It’s for Democratic politicians who are trying to rewrite election law in their favor.”

Zoltan Lucas is a TYT news assistant and a former intern for TYT Investigates. He's on twitter @thiszoltan

Jonathan Larsen is TYT’s managing editor. You can find him on Twitter @JTLarsen.

With additional research and reporting by TYT Investigates News Assistant Zoltan Lucas and Intern Jamia Zarzuela, and assistance from members of the TYT Army.

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