Celebrating Corruption in the State-Mandated Three Tier System
The Wine & Spirit Wholesalers of American (WSWA) have never been well acquainted with the concept of shame. This is not surprising, since this particular idea usually doesn’t arise among those who tend to believe in their own entitlement. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that at its upcoming annual convention in April, the WSWA has announced it will “honor” a man who perhaps more than any other epitomizes the idea of “Wholesaler Entitlement” and who had demonstrated the extraordinary need to Repeal The State Mandated Three Tier System.
Rocky Wirtz is owner of Judge & Dolph, a Chicago-based booze wholesaler that has interests in numerous other states. In the late 1990s, when producers were abandoning Judge & Dolph looking for better wholesale representation, instead of working harder Wirtz decided instead he needed to game the system…the political system, in order to buy his firm protection against the consequences of providing inadequate service.
As described in this Chicago Tribune article, Rocky Wirtz went about dropping loads of cash on Illinois lawmakers in exchange for them introducing and passing a bill entitled…are you ready….”The Wine and Spirits Industry Fair Dealing Act.” It became known as the “Wirtz Law”.
The “Fair Dealing Act” was nothing more than what we now all a “Franchise Law”. It prohibited Judge & Dolph’s suppliers from moving their business to another wholesaler if they were dissatisfied with Wirtz’s performance. But not just that. It actually had a retroactive clause that declared that those who had moved away prior to the bill passing, could not be allowed to let their action stand.
Rocky Wirtz and other wholesalers contributed over $700,000 to Illinois lawmakers to get this bill passed!
It has become one of the most infamous examples of corruption resulting from the State Mandated Three Tier System (and there are MANY). You see, without a state mandate that wine, beer and spirit producers use wholesalers to get their product to retailers, this kind of law would be nearly impossible. But Wirtz, presumably feeling that familiar sense of entitlement that wholesalers seem to have in their genes, thought this kind of anti-competitive, corrupt law was perfectly legitimate.
And now, the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America are set to “honor” the man who epitomizes the corruption in their ranks.
The rest of the story goes like this: The Wirtz Law was found to be unconstitutional by federal courts after winery Kendall-Jackson challenged the law. However, that didn’t stop wholesalers from happily raising their prices in the wake of the laws passage and it didn’t stop suppliers from actually stopping sales of their product in Illinois in response to the corrupt law. In the end, the Wirtz law became a case study for the need for campaign finance reform and how corruption works.
So, when the WSWA bestows upon Rocky Wirtz the Association’s “Lifetime Achievement Award” for his “contribution to the association, the community and the beverage industry defines excellence, inspires loyalty and exemplifies leadership,” we can assume that the WSWA and its members are inspired by the kind of corruption that this “leader” was involved in. Mr. Wirtz probably does deserve this award as he’s practically show other wholesalers the way when it comes to gaming a system that has become dedicated to protecting mediocre service and inspired undeserved entitlement.
It’s a perfect example of why the State Mandated Three Tier System Must Be Repealed in every state where it exists…particularly in Illinois.