Dear Supreme Court: Please End All Inter-State Wine Shipping
It appears that the newish president and CEO of the Wine & Spirit Wholesalers of America (WSWA) Michelle Korsmo, has read the playbook and ingested the kool-aid. In a recent letter to the editor of the Washington Post, Ms. Korsmo explains that “Sometimes, local residents would like the party selling liquor to have a vested interest in the local community to ensure regulatory oversight and responsible sales. And we believe that a state’s residents have every right, through the legislative process, to express this.”
The imbiber of kool-aid is attempting to piggyback on the Washington Posts own dubious interpretation of the meaning of recent oral arguments at the Supreme Court in the case of Blair v Tennessee. In its opinion piece, the Post gets the motivations behind the case incorrect as well as incorrectly poo-poos the theory that the 21st Amendment did not overrule that other part of the constitution at issue in this important case: The Commerce Clause.
But back to the Kool-aid drinker. What’s important to note is that it is the view of Ms. Korsmo and the WSWA that a state is well within its rights when it passes legislation meant entirely to protect in-state businesses from competition and to discriminate against out-of-state business. This doesn’t sound like what Ms. Korsmo is saying in her letter to the editor, but trust me, that’s exactly what she means. In fact, WSWA’s amicus brief in the Blair v Tennessee Supreme Court case made the argument that the court ought to REVERSE its 2005 decision in Granholm v Heald that did away with individual state laws that barred out-of-state wineries from shipping to consumers while allowing their in-state wineries to ship:
“As the circuit split addressed in this case illustrates, Granholm and Bacchus have created confusion as to the interplay between the Twenty-first Amendment and the Commerce Clause. Should the Court be inclined to reconsider those decisions, Justice Brandeis’s unanimous opinion in Young’s Market provides not only a more administrable rule for lower courts to apply but also the best evidence of the original meaning of Section 2.”
Let me translate that: ‘DEAR SUPREME COURT: WE’D LIKE YOU TO PUT AN END TO ALL DIRECT TO CONSUMER SHIPPING.”
In her letter to the Washington Post, Ms. Korsmo would have us all believe that it is the “state’s residents” who really, really think it’s important that their laws discriminate against interstate commerce. But that’s not the case at all and she knows this. The entire raison d’etre of WSWA is to protect its middleman members from any and all competition by gaming a regulatory system to their benefit. And whenever WSWA officials speak outside the safe confines of press releases or letters to the editor, this fact emerges fairly quickly. It’s the reason why you almost NEVER see folks like Ms. Korsmo actually agree to take questions from anyone other than her PR Manager. You never see WSWA folks engage in debate. The reason is simple. They always end up looking like craven rent seekers. I remember being on a panel with a member of WSWA talking about the three-tier system at an event way back in 2010. It was ugly. REALLY ugly.