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.


8 Responses

  1. Judy Parker - January 19, 2021

    Great research as always, Tom. But I wonder to what extent those supporting franchise agreements are simply from the southern and midwestern states and this might be more causal than connection?

  2. acv - January 21, 2021

    When Speech is limited –

    The irony is that this started with 74 million Americans who voted in Nov and a significant percentage of these voters feeling that this election was not fair and wanting their voices heard. Courtroom after courtroom threw out their cases largely on procedural grounds never addressing the merits. FULL STOP. I am not trying to litigate the storming of the capital but rather point out that the limiting of NBWA’s speech in support of candidates, that then support their policies, however flawed those policies may be, leads perilously in the same direction as the Viking hat crowd.

    The totalitarian instinct of going after the trade body NWBA based on this flimsy association in 2021 not surprising. Yes, I am sure the Viking hat guy stumbling along the house floor felt like an existential threat to democracy but if that was an existential threat, I have video from Minneapolis, Chicago, Nashville, Los Angles, Portland, and Seattle to name but a few you need to see. Censorship and that is the aim of the report to “name and shame,” only serves the powerful. The Viking hat guy was wrong, and he will pay dearly for his actions…. but he is not powerful neither symbolically nor otherwise.

    I thought things were bad last summer when the American Association of Wine Economists (AAWE) posted graphics concerning Campaign contributions to the RNC and DJT. How is this wine-related I thought? To me, this seemed overly intrusive and frankly in the end it was misleading and weirdly dystopian. Was I seeing what I was seeing? Sadly, scatter-gun political hit jobs seem to be the de jour of the moment. The perniciousness of it all is depressing. Craig Purser virtue-signaling aside I cannot say I feel overly sorry for an organization with such lackluster leadership that engages in Judas-like business ethics.

  3. Blake Gray - January 21, 2021

    I am sick to fucking death of assholes like acv, who does not have the courage to list her real name, talking about “74 million voters” like it matters. Biden got got 81 million votes! Can’t you do math, you stupid asshole? 81 million is more than 74 million.

    Trump lost, and he lost by a lot. It doesn’t matter that a lot of stupid assholes like acv voted for him and now whine about it. The 49ers scored 20 points in the Super Bowl, and they want their voice heard! Except Kansas City scored 31. That’s how it works, you stupid fucking asshole acv. Now go back under your rock and shut the fuck up.

  4. acv - January 21, 2021

    W. Blake Gray the Wine-Searcher’s US Editor? Congrats on winning the Roederer Award for Best Online Wine Writer. Sincerely, Impressive. Umm, I take it subtlety was never your strong suit? First, since you seem to be in a lather… what happened on Jan 6th was bad and I oppose the destruction of the Capital, and more broadly because this is not said enough, I oppose all political violence. I am sure you and I are equally as shocked concerning last night’s attack in Portland by Antifa crazies on the Headquarter of the Oregon Democrat Party. Further, I also oppose the destruction of civil liberties in America – like free speech, the right to assemble, the right to petition a court. Call me an old fashion liberal Blake. Can I call you Blake? The article – not the political commentary you and I are currently dancing around is about cancel-culture which is anti-democratic. So, crazies running amok is oppose allowing your opposition to investing time and money saying an election was stolen is not as easy to un-oppose? Stomach might be a better word. But trust me it is possible to do. I appreciate your passionate words to me, and I will take them to heart. Not because I agree with them…. that would be patronizing…. but because it seems a reflection of the times we are in and I should reflect at this moment on who I am and who I need to be. Reading it kind of reminded me of your tweeter feed as of late. I have tweeted an article or two of yours by the by. I take it you want my name so that you can adequately socially ostracize amongst my peers for my views. All you must do is ask and I will gladly provide it. In my case – shyness has never been my strong suit. I agree the 49ers would have fared better if they had kept Colin Kaepernick. All the best.

  5. Rev. Walking Turtle (ULC) - January 30, 2021

    WELL done, Friend ACV!

    The Esteemed Award Winner has perhaps had a wee sippin’ bit over the Coherency and Civility Thresholds, hm? (Happens a LOT with alky. IMVHO, bud /is/ wiser.)

    Narrative /versus/ Forbidden Facts spotted here. Cage match. Funny how Forbidden Facts always wins in the end. 🙂

    NEVER back down, my friend. NEVER knuckle under. Especially not for any Narrative Clown. GOOD on you and let Heaven bless you in your stand!

    By True Will alone, so BE it. And that is all. 0{:-)o[

  6. Mike Hoobs - February 9, 2021

    Blake Gray, Great balanced expressive writing.. Your use of fing and ahole was particularly impressive. I am certain you must have a wonderful personality. Kudos to you….being you.😁

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