Beer Wholesalers Spend $3 million Trying to Control Alcohol Market

The National Beer Wholesalers of America, the folks that brought you H.R. 5034 in an attempt to keep America's alcohol distribution system humming along at a 1933 pace and who, if they had their way, would see all direct shipping and all winery self distribution to retailers and restaurants banned, are moving up in the world.

NBWAcontributions The Wall Street Journal reports that during the current 2010 election cycle the National Beer Wholesalers of America (NBWA) are the 4th largest corporate political donors in the United States of America. They moved up from 5th place during the 2008 election cycle. During the current election cycle, the NBWA has contributed $2,495,000 to candidates for Congress, splitting their contributions nearly evenly between Democrats and Republicans. ( puts them at more than $2.6 million). The NBWA has spent more than the Teamsters Union, The National Association of Bankers, the National Association of Relators, The American Federation of Teachers, the Machinists/Aerospace Workers Union and The Carpenters and Joiners Union. Pretty heavy hitters all and all with far more members and individuals represented.

What does this tell me? Well, to begin with it tells me that the Beer Wholesalers could never have gotten anyone in Congress to listen to them whine about needing protection, let alone get a bill introduced into Congress and hearings held, if it all depended on the merits of their case.

It also explains to me why wholesalers continue to control consumer access to alcohol in this country, even NBWArecipients though they clearly have no conception of what consumers want or need.

But there's more information. The leading recipient of Beer Wholesaler money was….wait for it…Rep. John Conyers, Democrat from Michigan, who chairs the Judiciary Committee where the Beer Wholesalers Protection Act (also known as H.R. 5034) was heard in committee. Representative Conyers received $56,700 from the beer wholesalers PAC. That's $44,200 more than the next most flush recipient.

But wait, there's more. During this same period, the NBWA has spent $420,000 lobbying Congress and the federal government, employing more than 40 registered lobbyists to do so. The only thing we know they haven't spent a lot of money on is public relations, given the fact that their primary objective—passing H.R. NBWAlobbyng 5034—has been universally panned as mere protectionism by anyone and everyone in the media.

But consider this…The other major supporter of H.R. 5034 is the Wine & Spirit Wholesalers of America. They have spent $1.1 million on campaign contributions this election cycle.  Combined with the NBWA that's more than $3,500,000 that can be attributed to consumer purchasing wine, beer and spirits that has been used to try to keep consumers from accessing the wines they want, to try to keep producers of alcohol from keeping more of the money they earn from producing the stuff, and to try to prevent retailers from filling consumers' orders of wine via the Internet that consumers couldn't get filled in their local retail outlet because wholesalers won't bring the wines in and offer them.

If you are wondering how much the two primary wine producing associations (Wine Institutet of America and Wine America) spent on campaign contributions this year, here you go: $182,000.

The ugly part of all this is that the only reason wholesaler can gin up this kind of cash to buy laws is because the three tier system gives them the kind of protection that keeps them from truly having to compete for the business they are now granted by the states who maintain the three tier system.

And what happens at the state level where campaign contributions are concerned? According to, during 2009 and 2010, beer wholesaler associations have contributed more than $3,000,000 to campaigns of politicians running for state office.

The end result? Wine consumers who only want fair and well regulated access to wine, but are too often shut out of simply ordering a bottle of wine from a winery or a retailer, are outgunned by wholesalers who make billions of dollars off the backs of consumers.

That's one reason I know that the American Wine Consumer Coalition is necessary.

8 Responses

  1. Thomas Pellechia - October 14, 2010

    …and it’s our money, which is the beauty of capitalism; it uses the consumer’s money to create anti-consumer conditions.
    It would be funny if it weren’t so sad, and if the system of political payoff didn’t permeate every industry, not just alcohol.

  2. JohnLopresti - October 14, 2010

    Good idea, TomW. Yet, maybe this is outside of the portfolio of the consumer protection czar the government recently named. Adding a new counterbalance to the healthy vigor of the lobbying sector to assist our legislators in developing wider horizons. However, I suspect in this instance it is not the craft beer makers who are spending the millions already; and the idea of a low quality bulk beer producers organization out-maneuvering the wine set is a tad embarrassing.

  3. Blake Gray - October 14, 2010

    Hey Tom, while that election in Washington is ongoing, do you have similar numbers about PAC contributions to Washington state pols?
    I recently jumped in on that issue when a winemaker pointed out to me that one either speaks out or sits on one’s hands. But I’m sure you can write something more authoritative than I did.

  4. Marcia - October 14, 2010

    Mr. Pellechia hits the irony nail on the head here (as usual). And, oh, my! That $182K from the wine industry in opposition to HR5034…Geez, kind of embarassing, no?

  5. Rose Wine - October 14, 2010

    You know, the beer industry is not only trying to control the beer market but they are also trying to control the marijuana market…. I think they recently gave $10K to fund the campaign against legalization of marijuana!

  6. Mark - October 18, 2010

    Someone once told me that nothing ever gets accomplished from August to January of election years in the government, another good example comes with the beer industry trying to enter into the marijuana fight in California. Why would they care? What possible ramifications could it possibly have for them?

  7. Rmgagnon - October 21, 2010

    Just a thanks for shedding more light on the situation by pulling all this information together. It’s absolutely appalling as all politics is increasingly becoming.

  8. haryoshi - December 15, 2010

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