The party was last spring, but some hard facts were made public last Saturday in the San Angelo Standard Times. The party took place during the annual conference of the National Beer Wholesalers Association Convention, and, according to the Standard Times, was a fundraiser for House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, (D) Michigan, resulting in the wholesalers donating $47,000 to his election campaign. The 750 convention attendees spent a large part of their convention week meeting with House Members “to win support for a two-page bill the distributors believe is vital to protecting their business.”
That bill, of course, is HR 5034, the Comprehensive Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness Act (CARE) about which we have written extensively. More than a third of all House Members have signed on as sponsors of the bill, and the Standard Times report says that wholesaler political action committees poured more than “$1 million to most of the bill’s 152 backers… 90 Democrats and 62 Republicans.”
As we have written, ever since the Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that states must treat out-of-state wineries the same as in-state wineries concerning direct shipping, the wholesalers have looked for ways to circumvent that ruling. CARE would throw responsibility for establishing shipping laws directly back to states, thus granting states exception from the Commerce Clause. It would also make it exceedingly difficult to challenge state laws in court.
In August, data provided by the Federal Election Commission reported that beer wholesalers donated more than $2.5 million to 2010 election campaigns and that wine wholesalers kicked in $677,000.
We have long voiced our opposition to this proposed legislation as have winery owners across the country, wine advocacy groups, most retailers, and even some small distributors. But opponents of the bill have never had the financial resources to compete with the vast sums thrown into the campaign by the beer and wine wholesalers.
It’s too early to know how the new make-up of the House will affect HR 5034’s chances, but we have learned that at least one new Member of Congress from Indiana plans to oppose it. We hope there will be more like him, otherwise the chances of consumer interest prevailing are dim indeed.