The Vendetta Against Wine Drinkers in Michigan

What would possess the state of Michigan, it's Attorney General and the Michigan Liquor Control Commission to embark on a vendetta against Michigan consumes? This is is exactly what they've done.

Apparently the Michigan Attorney General has decided to appeal a Federal District Court decision that reiterated what everyone should have already known: It's unconstitutional to ban consumers from having wine shipped to them from out of state wine retailers while allowing it from in-state wine retailers.

The appeal will go to the same court that earlier this decade told the state of Michigan that their discriminatory law that banned shipments into Michigan from out-of-state wineries while allowing shipment to Michigan residents from in-state wineries was unconstitutional.

I wonder what kind of outcome they expect this time? What's that old saying about doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?

The problem with this appeal, however, goes deeper than just suggestions of insanity.

1. While the appeal is in process (and it will probably take a good 9 months to play out, Michigan residents will be unable to access the full measure of the American wine market.

2. The cost of the appeal will be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars that Michigan residents will have to pay

3. While the appeal is ongoing, Michigan will be forgoing the sales tax revenue they could be collecting if they only passed a simple law allowing out of state retailers to obtain a state-issued permit to ship wine to Michigan residents.

Now, in addition to the state appealing this Federal District Court ruling, the Michigan Beer & Wine Wholesalers Association ("intervenors in the case) have also appealed. This really comes as no surprise. Wholesalers have demonstrated over and over again their willingness to get beat down by the courts in futile appeals they should know are without merit.

However, there is a connection between the Michigan Government's decision to appeal this case and in the process screw Michigan consumers and the wholesaler's decision to do the same:

-Between 2000 and 2008, Michigan alcohol wholesalers have doled out more than $2.4 million to Michigan state political campaigns

-The political contributions of Michigan alcohol wholesalers between 2000 and 2006 have totaled more than in all but seven other states across the country.

-Between January 1 2007 and July 2008, the Michigan Beer and Wine Wholesales Association have contributed more to Michigan state political campaigns than any other entity in the entire state.

It's important to keep in mind exactly what the goal of Michigan alcohol wholesalers is. In 2005, in the wake of the Granholm v. Heald Supreme Court decision, the Michigan Beer & Wine Wholesalers Association actually sponsored a bill that was voted out of committee that would have banned Michigan wineries from shipping wine direct to Michigan consumers. This was their response to the Supreme Court decision: Screw Michigan wineries and consumers. What wonderful citizens they are.

The fact that this bill actually got out of committee (though passed into law) can be best understood by remembering a series of articles published by the Detroit Free Press that outlined the ways by which the Michigan Wholesalers have wine and dined Michigan politicians.

Most recently, Michigan wholesales have decided to go all the way down the path of deceit by actually publishing on their website a series of accusations against folks that are merely asking for direct shipping rights to the effect that these advocates want nothing but a complete absence of regulation on the sale of alcohol in the state. Putting these blatant lies aside, it's just indication of how desperate the state's publicly supported wholesalers are to keep their privileged position in place.

These kind of revelations about the wholesaler lobby in Michigan shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who has followed the ways and means of politically-connected and desperate alcohol wholesalers living in a world when antiquated distribution models are being dismantled.

But what is very disturbing is the Michigan Attorney General's decision to completely disregard the interests of Michigan consumers as well a the State's tax coffers by pursuing an appeal, rather than recommending a law be passed allow well regulated direct sales of wine to Michigan consumers by out-of-state retailers.


9 Responses

  1. satria - October 31, 2008

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  2. Morton Leslie - October 31, 2008

    If I was a French winery I would support banning free wine samples. Make the visitor pay for them like they have to pay for anything else. When a few brave souls in the Napa Valley began to charge for wine tasting everyone predicted disaster. In fact, it has completely changed the game for the better. Before where you sold a few dollars to a visitor, now you sell 10 times that to each…because you got rid of the freeloaders and selected out those who are truly interested in learning about (and buying) wine. It is now the rule, not the exception.
    If I had another wish to be granted it would be a national law prohibiting wineries from giving wine to charities. What really pisses me off is not the thousands of requests for donations that come from every Tom,Dick and Harry for their Pre-school, or small town fundraiser, but rich distributors like Southern Wine and Spirit strong arming you to give wine to their local charity where THEY bask in the glory of being the good corporate citizen. End of Rant.

  3. mydailywine - November 1, 2008

    Well, thank god this isn’t the 1920s when beverage wholesalers used machine guns to protect their turf instead of lobbyists!
    We would have to hide you in our cellars, Tom.
    Yes, the 3 tier system is still limping along, sick and therefore unable to execute sales successfully for their existing clients much less the thousands of wineries still lacking representation.
    They are becoming fulfillment houses more than sales or marketing agents.
    Direct to Trade (see is changing the game as is the Direct to Consumer revolution.

  4. Russ Kane - November 1, 2008

    And I thought that Texas was backwards. This makes Texas look like a real progressive state when it comes to wine laws.
    As you mention….Michigan alcohol wholesalers have doled out more than $2.4 million to Michigan state political campaigns – Money Talks…..It shouts!

  5. The Beer Wench - November 2, 2008

    The Ohio State University has constructed a perfect song for you to use in a moment like this. It goes “We don’t give a damn for the whole state of Michigan … the whole state of Michigan … the whole state of Michigan. We don’t give a damn for the whole state of Michigan …”

  6. The Blog Wine Cellar - November 3, 2008

    Living in Arizona I totally feel the pain of these ridiculous laws. We can’t purchase wine from out of state retailers either. These laws only serve to protect the middle man distributors and leave the consumer with higher prices and less selection. Not to mention collectors here in AZ who can’t get wine shipped to them if they are on important mailing lists. I’ve passed on too many highly acclaimed wines from Harlan, Schrader, ect.. because I couldn’t take them up on their allocated mailing offers. Sucks if you ask me.

  7. Rene ala Carte - November 8, 2008

    Attorney General Cox is running for governor when Granholm is finished. He’s trying to impress the conservatives in the state with this and other “wholesome” position. What you say about the wholesalers is completely correct, but in reality this story is about protecting turf and gubinitorial politics.
    Oh yeah, Mike Cox is an asshole too.

  8. LutheranChik - November 9, 2008

    Most of our legislators can’t find their fannies with both hands anyway, so it’s no surprise that we’re burdened with this ridiculous legislation.

  9. ooopinionsss - December 3, 2008

    How you think when the economic crisis will end? I wish to make statistics of independent opinions!

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