~In the legal world, when you are on the losing end of litigation your best bet is to create a diversion, and a good way to do that is to attack the character of your opponent’s lawyer, at least that’s what the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) believes.
~You might remember that a couple of years ago the Supreme Court weighed in on a wine shipping issue and came down on the side of free commercial access across state borders. In a nutshell, the Supremes told the states that they have a choice: if they allow in-state wineries to ship direct to consumers they must also allow out-of-state wineries the same privilege; otherwise, they must prevent all wineries from shipping direct to consumers.
~Contrary to what much of the ill-informed press wrote about the ruling, it did little to allow ready and free access of wine direct to consumers across state lines. The ruling placed no strings on states who opted to stop protectionism and to allow out-of-state wineries to ship direct—they simply charge extra for the access and they also make it more difficult to apply for a license, not to mention many states came up with other rules that limit a winery’s access.
~All of this nonsense is because a lot of state lawmakers are in the pocket of the WSWA lobby.
~To put it bluntly, the narrow ruling of the Supremes was as mealy as the congress of 1933 that created this mess when they gave states the right to monopolize wine distribution within their borders. Alcohol is the only commercial product in America that states have the right to control and to subject to punitive treatment, and to restrict its access.
~Still, the ruling got the WSWA scared. They see it as an infringement on their general monopoly in a system known as “three-tier.”
The three-tier system sets up a middle merchant that makes a profit without having to do much more than warehouse and deliver wine to retailers and restaurants (three tiers: producer to middle merchant to retail).
~The built in markup of the state-to-state mandated middle merchant runs between 20 and 30 percent. For that profit, WSWA makes some grand payments to statewide politicos through an array of lobbyists, and the state protection that WSWA receives probably makes the NRA or the health care industry jealous.
~To be fair, distributors do a little more than warehouse and deliver—they decide on which wines they want to carry and which wines they want to ignore (ever wonder why you can’t get certain wines in your state while people in other states can get them?)
When I was in the wine business I saw distributors at work breaking state alcohol control rules with the closest thing to impunity that I’ve ever witnessed. That’s because of all that lobby money they spend.
When I applied for a retail license in Manhattan I was subjected to a three-panel state liquor control board, the head of which finally was ousted after it became known how much he had been paid by WSWA member lobbyists to look the other way when they broke the rules.
The “holier than thou” head of the board was trying to stop my license because some local community board also had him in their pocket. It is an insidious system, but a system WSWA finds financially worth protecting.
~Ever since the Supremes issued their ruling WSWA has been working hard to protect their investments in the monopoly. They’ve been trying to prove that the shipping ruling has opened America to online alcohol purchases by minors. Unfortunately, every press release of the WSWA on the issue about so-called cases of minors having wine shipped to them has been a sting set up by WSWA money and local scum enforcement people—plus one newspaper (what’s up with that?). Not one case that I know of has been a real case of a minor ordering wine online, and I won’t even raise the issue of minors buying wine online to any level of worthiness by talking about its incongruity.
~Now that WSWA lobbyists have noticed that they are indeed losing ground, they’ve decided to go after the lawyer who brought that case to the Supreme Court and won. WSWA has filed suit claiming that the lawyer, who is a professor, used university resources and time to make his case.
~The university of course has caved to the pressure and is doing an investigation, the same university that endorsed the lawyer’s work—even took pride in the outcome of the Supreme Court case.
The most disgusting part of the story is that WSWA has asked the state of Indiana, where they filed the suit, to set up a fund to pay the lawyer in case the state loses. Unbelievable!
The British system of justice makes asshole lawsuit complainants pay when they lose a frivolous case—what I would give for that system right now.
~Remember this story; it is one in a string of scummy lobbyist moves that needs to be drummed into our consciousness, lest we forget what a sick system alcohol control really is.
~There are scores of idiots out there trying to protect us from ourselves by denying wine yet a college student can pick up a gun as easily as he can get a pack of gum. Incredible.
You can read all about this nonsense at these three online sites.
April, 2007. All Rights Reserved.