Integrity—Bloodied and Scarred

Barbara Farrah I tend to talk a loud game here at Fermentation about the corruption that surrounds the politics of wine distribution. I tend to accuse politicians of being in some people's pockets on the issue of the three tier system. But rarely do I have the opportunity to point my readers to an example of integrity so obviously bloodied and scarred by bald faced corruption. Allow me.

Late last year, the state of Michigan lost a court battle in which they vigorously defended their discrimination against out-of-state wine stores. Michigan allowed in-state wine stores to ship wine to Michiganders. It allow in-state wineries to ship wine to Michiganders. And it allow out-of-state wineries to ship to Michiganders. But out-of-state wine merchants? They were prohibited.

The Federal District Court Judge told both the state of Michigan and the Michigan Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association that their arguments in favor of denying adult consumers access to the wines they want and denying out-of-state wine merchants the right to fulfill Michigan consumers' demands was unconstitutional. The Judge, predictably, cited the Supreme Court decision and reasoning of Granholm v. Heald.

It was no surprise that the state appealed this decision to Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals where, I'm sure the Michigan wholesalers knew, their arguments in favor of blatant, anti-consumer discriminatory laws would be shot down by an even higher court. The problem the Michigan wholesalers in particular had was that a decision in favor of retailer direct shipping from an Appeals Court is a very powerful slap to their face and would have advanced the goal of allowing wine merchants outside Michigan and other states to be treated fairly where wine shipping was concerned.

So what happened? Rather than play out the Appeal, the Michigan Wholesalers decided to go to their bench. They decided rather than get a bad decision in a higher court, they'd fix their problem of having to compete on only a slightly more level playing field by getting a law passed that, while seemingly fair, would make sure there would be no retailer shipping at all in Michigan.

The Michigan Beer and Wine Wholesalers went to Representative Barbara Farrah and asked her to introduce a bill they had themselves written that would have banned ALL direct shipment of wine in Michigan by both in-state and out-of-state retailers, an approach to Direct Shipping policy that incredibly anti-consumer and anti-business, is constitutional.

The wholesalers also asked Representative Farrah to introduce this bill into a committee and to arrange to have that committee "hear" the bill without giving any notice to its opponents. Essentially, the wholesalers wanted to ram it through the Legislature under cover of darkness.

Representative Farrah did everything the Wholesalers asked. Everything.

Now, it just so happens that Representative Farrah counted Michigan Beer & Wine Wholesalers Association, the folks that  wrote the anti-consumer bill that was successful in killing retailer to consumer shipping in Michigan, as her largest campaign contributors during her three terms as a state Representative.

This was one of her last acts as a state representative. It also turns out she was a lame duck. Term limited out of office. Needing no more support from the Wholesalers, she could have done the right thing and denied the Michigan Wholesalers her involvement in screwing the consumers of Michigan and her representatives by engaging in a seriously dirty end run around representative government.

So why didn't she do the right thing? Because there was a job waiting for her after she left office.

Today, former Representative Barbara Farrah works for the Lansing lobbying firm "Governmental Consultant Services Inc." Imagine who one of their largest clients is:

The Michigan Beer & Wine Wholesalers Association, the very people that were giving her money throughout her political career and the folks for whom she choose to assist by taking a sharp carving knife and sticking in the side of Integrity, leaving it bloodied and wounded next to the capital steps while she went down the street to take a six figure job that was one can only assume was promised her if she did the deed for their benefactors.

If you are even a little bit appalled by Ms. Farrah's blatant lack of integrity in the Michigan Direct Shipping debate, you should write her and tell her. I did.

17 Responses

  1. Mark - November 12, 2009

    Tom-I can’t agree more. If the laws were fairly enforced then it would be one thing, but given that there are so many ways around these shipping(hello private wine lockers) laws I can’t understand how any politician, not looking out for their own financial interest would be siding with these types of discriminatory ideas.
    I hope continued work by bloggers and other industry outsiders(relatively speaking of course) helps to change the course of alcohol distribution in this country.

  2. Tish - November 12, 2009

    Tom, you are on fire with these past two posts!
    Now all we need is to get someone to ship Barbara Farrah in Michigan a case of “for-a-nickel” wines from BevMo.

  3. Roger King - November 12, 2009

    Cheers to this one. Michigan is clearly flawed. Is it not a state where just two families control alcohol distribution since it went legal. Seems the political contributions are universal and the result is the office holders would eat their young when it comes to rocking the alcohol distribution boat.
    And they though the auto industry was their downfall.

  4. Thomas Pellechia - November 12, 2009

    Of course, she does these things out of conscience–it has nothing to do with money; nothing, nada, niente. Sure.

  5. Mike - November 12, 2009

    It seems clear that Ms. Farrah is immune from this kind of publicity. The same may not said for her employers.
    How can we contact them directly?

  6. Westoakland - November 12, 2009

    As a Mi resident (unfortunately) we learned here that these miscreants (like Ms. Farrah) spent over $2.5 million to ‘grease’ our politicians.
    I’ll always remember Grocho Marks who said “ . . . integrity is what you do when no one is looking.”
    Ms. Farrah (and our political hacks), one hopes, will someday reckon with her lack of honesty.
    Thanks for the flesh-out.

  7. The Wine Mule - November 12, 2009

    Pardon me for going slightly off-topic, but has anybody read about Peter Galbraith? He’s the guy who in his position as a “disinterested policy expert” advocated splitting up Iraq, because he had an interest (undisclosed until yesterday) in a Kurdish oil production scheme that might yet net him more than $100 million? In the larger scheme of things, Barbara Farrah is a mere errant child compared to him.

  8. Thomas Pellechia - November 13, 2009

    Your point is dead on.
    Corruption is the nature of political power–how much damage the corrupt do is directly related to their level of influence and the status they have reached. With that in mind, if you can stop them before they get the oil deals, maybe they won’t reach the more troublesome level of influence that creates “collateral damage.”
    In other words, every corrupt bastard ought to be exposed, and possibly shot.

  9. Ed - November 13, 2009

    Thanks, Tom for bringing this to light… I simply cannot believe these types of deals continue to occur and without challenge…
    furthermore, she looks like a man, man…

  10. Joel - November 13, 2009

    Tom, I wrote about this at MichWine when it occurred last January: — she needed a job after term limited out of the legislature. They needed a shill.
    Unfortunately, here in Michigan this type of shenanigan is business as usual. In a state that’s preoccupied with 15% unemployment and economic meltdown, the local media give this short shrift.

  11. bill - November 13, 2009

    Is that a dude?

  12. Joyce - November 13, 2009

    Not an attractive woman, maybe she should drink more imported wine…or maybe we should when looking at her…corruption is UGLY!

  13. Richard - November 13, 2009

    In the words of Captain Renault in “Casablanca” “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!” Our political system is corrupt, probably moreso than at anytime in history – if you have enough money you can buy anyone. Not, of course, that I’m implying Ms. Farrah was bought, noooo, of course not. But think of corruption that gets people killed (Haliburton and KBR in Afghanistan/Iraq) or maimed (car companies, tire companies – the latest is the “sticking mats” that cause gas pedals to stick), or a variety of other infractions. So, we have the best politicians money can buy… Not that I’m saying it’s naive to assume it could change, but isn’t it naive to assume it will change?

  14. Blake Gray - November 13, 2009

    Of course you’re right, but if local politicians care about what anyone thinks, it’s only people who can pay them, or people who can mass a lot of voters against them.
    Michigan’s laws will only change when a loudmouth group of Michigan residents demand it, repeatedly. (If you’re out there, cue Wolverines. And Spartans.)

  15. Thomas Pellechia - November 13, 2009

    I wish I could believe that. Here in NY, wineries and consumers are screaming for grocery store legislation, but the retail association has proved powerful enough to block it. That association is as powerful in Albany as the WSWA, and there’s evidence that they have plants inside the government who leak them legislative bills in the making so that they can build their arguments and the foment.

  16. bill - November 13, 2009

    Can someone please tell me how this will ever end? Everywhere we look there are so many stories about politicians that just are so out of touch with the people and yet we elect them? How does this happen???
    I don’t understand anymore and just wish there was a way to fix it that wouldn’t take 100 years! Thank god for California but even here you have to go to a military base to get the really good Everclear 190! When will it end?

  17. Dylan - November 14, 2009

    Every time Tom follows the money I become a little more disheartened by who I find at the end of the trail.

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