Wine Bribery—Does it Look, Walk and Quack Like a Duck?
The Wine Spectator got around to reporting on what looks for all intents and purposes to be a case of bribery involving a New York lawmaker and New York wholesalers. And the publication does a pretty darned good job of exposing for its wine-loving readers what the impact would be if an “At Rest” law is passed in the Empire State.
The Spectator’s Robert Taylor Reports on Senate Bill HB 3849, noting that if passed it if would “require all alcoholic beverages sold by New York wholesalers to remain “at rest” in a warehouse in New York for at least 24 hours prior to delivery to a retailer or restaurant.”
It turns out that the vast majority of New York based wholesalers, particularly the smaller ones, keep their warehouses across the river from New York City in New Jersey where the cost of warehousing wine is much less expensive. If the bill in question passes, these smaller wholesalers would be required to build warehouses in New York to store their inventory or pay a much higher fee for existing warehouse space.
Put another way, you’ll see a lot of smaller New York wholesalers go out of business and New York consumers will see a number of brands simply disappear from the marketplace.
HOWEVER, consider who would benefit from this bill’s passage, as reported by Taylor:
“The impact report also predicts that the proposed law would make the industry less efficient and ‘would primarily benefit a few large wholesalers who already operate their own warehouses in New York. New York’s two largest wholesalers are Southern Wine and Spirits and Empire Merchants (a subsidiary of the Charmer Sunbelt Group). Neither has publicly stated support for the bill so far, but both have contributed to New York politicians. Southern contributed nearly $30,000 to New York lawmakers during the 2012 election year, while Empire made more than $330,000 in contributions to New York politicians during that time. Empire Merchants LLC has given a total of $30,000 to Sen. Klein (the Bill’s sponsor) since 2009.”
Forgive me for being the cynic, but doesn’t this look heck of a lot like the same kind of bribery scandal that recently rocked New York’s political world? In that case, as reported by NBC. The NBC report notes:
“A criminal complaint said that in meetings at a diner, a steakhouse and a hotel room, a group of businessmen bribed (NY Assemblyman Nelson) Castro and (NY Assemblyman Eric) Stevenson to help them open day-care centers for senior citizens. Stevenson, a two-term Democrat, allegedly agreed to use his influence with a utility company and the city Buildings Department to expedite the opening – and his law-making abilities to crush any competition…He was captured on tape making a deal to draw up legislation that would impose a moratorium on new centers, effectively giving the gang of four a monopoly, the complaint says….”You can write down the language, basically what you want,” he allegedly told a go-between for the businessmen.”
Kudos to the Wine Spectator’s Taylor for looking into this story for the magazine’s readers. It’s the kind of alcohol-related legislation that reminds us of the kind of protection from competition that can and is purchased by the largest wholesalers in this country who are already protected a variety of obscenely unfair, anti-competitive and anti-free trade laws.