Badger Blog Alliance

Sic Semper Tyrannis

Monday, July 02, 2007

This then...Explains Much

One question that many a reporter was having last week (not to mention WisPolitics) was why the State Senate Democrats threw in a provision about wine distributors.

Ya see, what this amendment (See Pg. 4) would do is still protect the three-tier distribution system for alcohol (Producers to Wholesalers to Retailers). It stops wineries from selling directly to retail stores and restaurants, thus bypassing tier two.

It would force individual vineyards in and outside the state, to get a permit, on an annual basis no less, to distribute on their own; which could end up costing them thousands in profit.

Basically, the amendment only benefits one group -- Distributors of wine who have a statewide network. There are roughly only a handful in Wisconsin.

Critics said this amendment, which barely was debated before it was voted upon, was a payback for campaign contributions.

The critics may have just been proven right.
MADISON, Wis. -- Employees of a beverage wholesaler made campaign donations to members of the Democratic-controlled Senate before that chamber approved a budget amendment that will help its business in Wisconsin.

Two employees of Madison-based General Beverage Sales Co. gave at least $12,495 to the campaigns of eight Senate Democrats and the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee, campaign finance records show.

That includes $350 to Sen. Russ Decker, D-Weston, who backed the amendment to stop wineries from selling products directly to retailers and require them to hire distributors such as General Beverage instead.

The company officials -- Frances Weinstein and Joel Minkoff -- also donated to Senate Majority Leader Judy Robson and four freshmen whose victories flipped Senate control back to Democrats last year, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, which tracks campaign donations.

The amendment approved last week would protect General Beverage's market in Wisconsin. The company is one of the few wine distributors with statewide reach with operations in Madison, Milwaukee, Oshkosh, Little Chute, Menomonie, Chippewa Falls and Barron.

Critics have argued the amendment, which was introduced just hours before Senate Democrats approved it in the $66 billion two-year state budget, was a favor for politically connected distributors.

"I don't see that there's a public policy reason for this other than rewarding your friends," said Bill Nelson, president of WineAmerica, a trade association representing U.S. wineries opposed to the plan.
In a "it's a small world" moment for Wisconsin bloggers, Decker's press flack is none other than Carrie Lynch, who was once the writer of "What's Left?" at WisPolitics.

Pardon me if I don't buy the spin she's cycling.

Labels: , ,