Monday, June 2, 2008

A Dark Day in Illinois

Crap! I wasn't paying attention and June 1 has come and gone. That was the day that

HB 429 [took] effect. The new law [strips] Illinoisans of their right to have wine shipped to them from out of state wine merchants... "Illinoisans will lose access to tens of thousands of wines that are not made available in Illinois by its wine distributors or retailers so that the profits of a very small group of very powerful wholesalers can be protected," said Tom Wark, Executive Director of Specialty Wine Retailers Association.
So sadly true. I believe in buying locally, or at least in buying my Loire wines locally (I ain't gonna buy no Illinois wine, bub!), whenever possible. But the fact is, there are many, many wines that are simply not available to me. The wines imported by Jenny & François? Not distributed in Illinois. The wines imported by Petit Pois? Not distributed in Illinois. And so on. Sure, I am generously allowed a few cases of wine direct from American wineries, but there is more to life than American wine. And unless and until all current-release imported wines are distributed here — and I eliminate rare back vintage wine of domestic or foreign origin that's sold online, just to be generous — the Illinois wine buyer is cut off from experiencing all s/he can experience; and the money pocketed by out-of-state agents will probably not otherwise flow to in-state agents.

So won't this simply increase the likelihood that Illinois distributors will pick up such at-the-margins wine? Hardly. Distributors are consolidating, merging. That's not a healthy environment for marketplace diversity, certainly not in the short term.

Boo-hoo, right? Well, you gotta look at how this legislation was passed — and as Mr. Wark notes, "What we are seeing is political payoff to alcohol wholesalers for the more than $6.3 million they've contributed to Illinois state political campaigns since 2000." Sounds spoofulated to me.

Before I get off my soap box, I have one more thing to say. How do we know that wholesalers paid off our legislators? We know thanks to Barack Obama. His "legislation, passed in 1998, banned most gifts by lobbyists, prohibited spending campaign money for legislators’ personal use and required electronic filing of campaign disclosure reports... The disclosure requirement 'revolutionized Illinois’s system,' said Cindi Canary, executive director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform."

Did Obama's legislation stop the payoffs? No. But it does make it easier to hold the responsible accountable; and that is why, in the AP article, names are named and amounts are listed, e.g. "One Senate sponsor of HB 429, James Clayborne, Jr., has received $85,000 from alcohol wholesaler interests since 2000, including $15,000 since the legislation was introduced."

That Obama made a choice not only to sidestep the corruption endemic to Illinois (and no, he didn't do a thing for that Rezko guy) but to help expose it tells you a lot about who he is. Even if he does prefer beer!

(PS - the odious Ken Starr represents the the Specialty Wine Retailers Association in a legal capacity. My support of the association's argument is in no way an endorsement of his own fetid puritanism of yore. What, were all the other lawyers taken or something? Sheesh.)

1 comment:

Brooklynguy said...

so lame. someday this will all change