Craig Purser and the Beer Wholesalers’ Hoodwinking of Congress

Paul Pisano and Craig Purser The term "Hoodwinked" reportedly originates in the 16th century. It meant then the actually covering of a person's head with a hood to prevent them from seeing anything, such as when an executioner would cover the head of a doomed criminal prior to execution.

Today's usage of the term "hoodwinked" refers to tricking someone. And this is exactly what is happening in Washington, DC as America's beer wholesalers attempt to convince lawmakers to support one of the most radical proposals Congress has ever considered when American commerce is concerned.

The persons most responsible for the ongoing hoodwinking of Congress is Craig Purser, president of the National Beer Wholesalers Association, along with his General Counsel Paul Pisano. Together, they are ultimately responsible for the outright lies that are being used to promote HR 1161, a bill that would eviscerate the most fundamental Constitutional principle that underlies the American economy: that the 50 states ought to represent a single economic union under which business can operate without the barriers to commerce that afflicted the country prior to the writing of the Constitution and that is primarily responsible for the success of the American economy over the past 220+ years.

What's bad is that Pursor and Pisano have constructed claims to support HR 1161 that are false.

What's worse is that they know these claims they've constructed are false.

What's unethical is that they are publicly promoting these claims knowing they are false.

What's really dangerous is that they are delivering to Congress these claims they know to be false.

Alcohol beverage law and politics is complicated stuff. The intersection of the 21st Amendment to the Constitution and the Commerce Clause of the Constitution are particularly complex and this is the area that HR 1161 effects. This complexity is studiously ignored by Purser and Pisano as they make a series of unfounded and unsupported claims while in the presence of Congress and in public. The vast majority of congressional representatives are not schooled in the case law concerning commerce in alcoholic beverages. Most don't have much understanding of the impact of the Wilson Act or the Webb-Kenyon Act. What these lawmakers know is what they are being told.

It's very difficult to look a friend in the face and expect them to hoodwink you. And make no mistake, Purser, Pisano and the National Beer Wholesalers are friends of Congress. This trade organization representing American beer wholesalers regularly spend millions of dollars annually on friendly campaign contributions to most members of congress. They stage fundraisers for members of Congress. They spend millions on lobbying members of Congress. So when they walk into the offices of members of Congress, as they currently are in their attempt to get HR 1161 supported, they come as friends, not as hoodwinkers.

How are they hoodwinking Congress? Consider these claims being made:

"Without the CARE Act and an assurance of local control, a local retailer’s license would have no value because a local license would be a piece of paper inferior to federal control."
This is a straight up lie. The CARE Act is currently not federal law and local licenses DO have value. They allow licensees to operate under the laws of the state, as long as those laws do not violate the power of the federal government to regulate interstate commerce.

"With as many as 50,000 wine labels and 13,000 beer labels, no other consumer product in America offers as much choice – all this despite having strong, commonsense regulations governing distribution and sales."
All of a sudden, there is no talk of "State" systems. Now beer wholesalers want to talk about what's available in "America". However, where ever wholesalers get their way, consumers have extraordinarily limited access to the totality of wines on America's shores UNLESS there is direct shipping of wine allowed from out of state producers and retailers. And wholesalers are working to make this kind of access as difficult as possible with HR 116. 

"Over the past six years, however, more than half of the states have been chal­lenged in federal courts by plaintiffs seeking to reduce the states’ ability to regulate alcohol. Attacks on this working regulatory system present a significant and unnecessary burden to taxpayers at a time of record state deficits."
This could not be more deceptive. Particularly when you consider that is the wholesalers themselves who have regularly challenged the states' ability to regulate alcohol with lawsuits. They have sued Texas, Kansas and Indiana in order to change the will of the states. But wholesalers don't mention this. They don't mention their own attacks on the state alcohol regulations because it would demonstrate the Craig Pursor, Paul Pisano and the rest of the Beer Wholesalers are more concerned with power and profit than with principle.

Consider the following claims made by Purser and Pisano that are outright lies and offered with no support whatsoever:

"Some online alcohol sellers, big box retailers, international alcohol suppliers and professional plaintiffs are using distant federal courts to remove the existing state-based system of safeguards." LIE + No Supporting Evidence

"Some of these big suppliers and retailers are trying to sell alcohol in the U.S. like it is sold in other countries – where there is less accountability and less local influence over alcohol-related decisions. Their goal is to undermine state and local laws so they can sell larger volumes of alcohol at low or below cost prices."
LIE + No Supporting Evidence

"Since 2005, more than half of the states have faced challenges in federal courts that threaten their authority to regulate alcohol and their ability to maintain a licensed system of alcohol controls."
LIE + No Supporting Evidence

"Several court decisions threaten to dismantle today’s effective system of local alcohol controls, including laws that inhibit illegal sales to minors, ensure that all intoxicating liquor is lawfully sold through licensed vendors, curb overly aggressive marketing and consumption, achieve the effective collection of taxes, establish an orderly, accountable and transparent distribution and importation system."
NUMEROUS LIES + No Supporting Evidence.

Finally there is the biggest lie of all: Purser and Pisano mention nowhere that if passed, HR 1161 would radically alter the rights that wine retailers across the country. HR 1161 would mean that wine retailers no longer have the same protections against state-based discrimination that every other industry enjoys. This radical departure from the most basic economic protection a business or industry can enjoy will have consequences that can't even be imagined. What we do know is that Purser and Pisano and the wholesales will, upon passage of HR 1161, do what they have always done: work as hard as possible to assure that a state's consumers only have access to the goods that a state's wholesalers think they should have access to by pushing to ban consumers from accessing any wines that are not first a profit center for wholesalers.

The long list of lies being perpetuated by Craig Purser and Paul Pisano today as they speak with members of Congress are meant to have one purpose: To Hoodwink Congress. It's unethical. It's wrong. It's dirty. And, unfortunately, it's unsurprising.

You can find these and other lies from the team of Purser and Pisano HERE.

7 Responses

  1. CycleFreak - March 30, 2011

    Again, consumers lose. Not only by virtue of limited choice, but also in the form of unnecessarily high prices.
    I can’t even begin to count the number of times I have wanted to try a wine that I heard or read about, only to find that it’s not available locally. And, due to archaic restrictions, can not have it shipped to me.
    Is there any way to prevent this pile of rubbish from becoming law?

  2. Alexander Andrawes - March 31, 2011

    How to Oppose HR 1161:
    Wholesalers are betting that wine lovers like you will not make the effort to voice opposition to your representatives in Congress. Consumer pressure – through letters and calls – is critical to preventing HR 1161 from becoming law.
    Step 1: Take 2 minutes and personalize a letter to your Congressional representative. (
    ~Via the amazing site

  3. Steve - March 31, 2011

    Congress is on the Wholesalers’ payroll. They are not being hoodwinked, they are complicitous in developing the argument. The Wholesalers’ Association and Congressional staffs put in a great number of hours to craft an argument that the American public will buy (Think of the children!!) when their actual motives are money and power. The Wholesaler’s Association benefits directly through increased profits and Congressmen benefit indirectly through campaign contributions, funding of personal projects and board positions for their influential friends.
    Congress can’t be hoodwinked, they wrote the lies…..

  4. sewa mobil - April 3, 2011

    Nice article, thanks for the information.

  5. sewa mobil - April 4, 2011

    Nice article, thanks for the information.

  6. The Wine Mule - April 4, 2011

    From the Op-Ed page of this morning’s New York Times:
    Wholesale Robbery In Liquor Sales

  7. The Wine Mule - April 4, 2011

    Let’s try this again with the link:

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