How Sedition in the Capitol Touches the Alcohol Industry—And It’s Not Pretty
If you were to ask how the recent catastrophe at the U.S. Capitol implicated the alcohol industry, you’d be hard-pressed to find that connection. Ideologically, alcohol is a pretty non-partisan affair. So, it was very interesting to see one of America’s most prominent alcohol trade associations, the National Beer Wholesalers of America (NBWA), connected to the fallout from the storming of the Capitol.
Media reports on the political fallout of the storming of the Capitol have in part focused on the 147 Republican lawmakers who, in the immediate wake of the attack on the Capitol that was fueled by presidential accusations that the 2020 election was rigged and filled with fraud, still voted to challenge the 2020 election results based on this claim. This, in turn, has led to an examination of which corporate and trade association entities have contributed the most to these notorious 147. As The Hill notes:
Corporations and industry trade associations have contributed $170 million collectively to the campaigns of the 147 GOP lawmakers who voted to challenge the 2020 election results, according to a new report from progressive watchdog group Public Citizen.
Nineteen political action committees (PACs) of corporations and trade groups have given at least $1 million total to the Republicans in recent years, and 46 PACs have supported at least half of them.
Public Citizens released its analysis, “Bankrolling the Disenfranchisers” on Wednesday. It called out the National Association of Realtors (NAR), American Bankers Association (ABA), National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) and AT&T as the five largest contributors to the 147.
The National Beer Wholesalers of America were among the top five corporations and industry trade associations in America that gave campaign contributions to the 147 GOP lawmakers who so bought into the election fraud conspiracy that they voted just hours after the attack on the Capitol to overturn the certification of electors.
Attention was brought to these largest donors to the GOP conspiracy theorist by Public Citizen. One week after the storming of the Capitol and the vote by the 147 to overturn the electoral vote, Public Citizen published its “Bankrolling the Disenfranchisors” Report. The report highlighted the companies and trade associations that contributed to the 147 and called out the National Beer Wholesalers for the $1,703,000 they had given to the 147 since 2016. The NBWA gave contributions to 109, or 74%, of the lawmakers voting to overturn the electoral college vote.
The NBWA is not a particularly ideological organization. They are ecumenical in their campaign contributions having delivered 53% of their campaign contributions during the 2020 election cycle to Democratic candidates and PACS and 47% to Republican PACs and candidates. However, during the recent Georgia Senate Campaign, they did support Republicans Loeffler ($5,000 and Perdue over the Democratic candidates.
Generally, the NBWA’s main concern is the interests of beer middlemen. They also are a decidedly anti-consumer and anti-free trade organization that has consistently opposed nearly every effort to allow consumers to receive interstate alcohol shipments, regularly opposed the ability of alcohol producers to sell directly to retailers while working to force them to give up profits to their NBWA members, and have supported “Franchise Laws” the bind producers to wholesalers for life. The NBWA was also one of the leading proponents of a 2010 effort to enact a federal law that would have effectively forbid legal challenges to state-based discriminatory alcohol shipping laws.
It also is notable that the NBWA is wont to say what benefits them in the moment, rather than what they think is the truth. In a “Friend of the Court” brief submitted in the 2019 Tennessee Wine v Thomas Supreme Court case, the NBWA argued that a Tennessee law that required holders of an alcohol retailers permit to be residents of the state for two years prior to obtaining the permit “ensures that the applicant has a demonstrated commitment to the host community, an understanding of its local norms and standards, and a thorough knowledge of the applicable state and local laws governing the sale of alcohol.”
However, in a subsequent “Friend of the Court Brief” filed in the Sarasota Wine v Schmidt 8th Circuit case, the NBWA changed its tune, describing the law at issue in the earlier Tennessee Wine v Thomas case as “The onerous Tennessee durational residency requirement” and a “significant barrier for an out-of-state person or entity to obtain a retail license.”
All this said it’s very clear that Public Citizen’s linking of the NBWA to the Capitol Hill riots via their contributions to lawmakers that voted to challenge the Electoral College vote on the very same day the mob stormed the seat of American democracy is a clear case of guilt by association. This goes for those who on social media platforms like Twitter have repeated the insinuation. There is no indication as the Public Citizen report implies, that the NBWA in any way endorses the criminal and seditious actions of the supporters of Donald Trump. Does it look bad for the NBWA? Of course. That’s the point of the Public Citizen’s report. Is it bad?
It should be noted that NBWA must have been among the very first companies or associations to issue a public condemnation of the events on Capitol Hill on January 6th. At around 9pm on January 6, NBWA issued a statement condemning the events of the day saying,
“Today’s unlawful assault on the U.S Capitol and the nation’s democracy jars our sense of security and order. These violent actions run directly counter to America’s history of the peaceful transfer of power and undermine our Constitution.”
This statement was not in response to Public Citizen’s report and it was not in response to speculation on who was bankrolling the campaign of those voting to overturn the certification of the electoral college vote, which didn’t happen until later in the evening. In other words, it doesn’t appear this was an ass-covering statement, but rather a genuine reflection on what had happened earlier that day. The NBWA has also announced it has suspended its campaign contributions pending a review in the wake of the Capitol Hill riots.
These facts will not stop those who will brand the NBWA as collaborators. In the same Public Citizen report referenced above we see this claim:
“Many of the disenfranchisers have been enabling Trump’s assault on democratic norms and the rule of law throughout his presidency. The corporate benefactors listed in this analysis have likewise helped these lawmakers offer aid and comfort to Trump.”
Anyone who claims the NBWA approves of the riot on Capitol Hill, is indifferent to the meaning of the riots, should have expected such an event, or approved of some of their campaign contribution recipients’ subsequent buying into the election fraud claim (as Public Citizen implies) is trading in dangerous, self-serving, unethical hyperbole. Worse yet, they know they are.
And so this is how the seditious events at the Capitol reach the alcohol industry. It’s not a scenic byway that runs from Capitol Hill to Alcohol. And it would be premature to suggest that the fallout from the NBWA’s enormous campaign contributions is over. However, this is an object lesson how, in this moment’s political climate, six degrees of separation can be collapsed into no degrees of separation very quickly and not in the service of truth.
As you may have gathered, I’m not a fan of the National Beer Wholesalers of America. In general, I believe their activities do considerable harm to a huge number of other alcohol industry members as well as harming consumers. What they are not, however, is seditious.