Sunday, January 30, 2011

Southern Beverage and Anheuser-Busch raised their game in 2007. Coincidence?

Clarion-Ledger reporter Elizabeth Crisp attempts to shed some light on the beer debate:

"This year, the legislature will consider a few bills that aim to increase the flow – so to speak – of beer in Mississippi.
But as they have in years past, it seems those bills are again heading toward failure.
Despite what appears to be an overwhelming support for the legislation among business owners and consumers, lawmakers are still hesitant to take up bills that appears “pro-alcohol” in a state where blue laws are the norm....

Many, including Republicans Sen. Dean Kirby and Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, seem hesitant to even put the issue up for a vote in committee or on the floor.
So what are your thoughts on the beer issue?" blog post

The political reporter for the state newspaper might try digging through some campaign finance reports, or better yet, read this website (Sorry, I just had to write that. ;-) ) since JJ documented last week the money trail from Anheuser-Busch to Senate Finance Committee Chairman and the man responsible for killing these beer-friendly bills, Dean Kirby.

The Budweiser lobby in Mississippi consists of several players: Anheuser-Busch, Lobbyist Beth Clay and her firm, and Capitol Advocacy Group, a PAC created by Ms. Clay and funded by AB. However, there is another serious player: Southern Beverage, which is AB's distributor. Southern Beverage has not one, not two, but three lobbyists and not just any lobbyists: Clare Hester, John Lundy, and Clifford Thompson. All super-lobbyists and two, Ms. Hester and Mr. Lundy, are both members of Capitol Resources Group (CRG), Henry Barbour's firm. A review of campaign finance reports reveals how much money Southern Beverage has paid to its lobbying team:

2010: Not available.
2009: Clifford Thompson: $6,750, CRG: $60,000
2008: Clifford Thompson: $6,750, CRG: $60,000
2007: Clifford Thompson: $6,500, Al Sage: $3,000, CRG: $60,000
2006: Clifford Thompson: $6,500, Al Sage: $3,000
2005: Clifford Thompson: $6,500
2004: Clifford Thompson: $6,500, Al Sage: $3,000
2003: Clifford Thompson: $6,500, Al Sage: $3,000
2002: Clifford Thompson: $6,500, Al Sage: $3,000
2001: Clifford Thompson: $6,500, Al Sage: $3,000
2000: Clifford Thompson: $6,500, Al Sage: $3,000

A pattern emerges when reading these reports: Southern Beverage, Anhueser-Busch, and Capitol Advocacy Group did not spend much money in Mississippi politics until 2007. Southern Beverages spending on lobbyist jumped from $9,000 a year to nearly $67,000 in 2007 and has remained at that level. This team includes those some would argue are the two top lobbyists in Mississippi. A reexamination of the money trail documented last week shows the same pattern: AB gave little money to PAC's or Senator Kirby prior to 2007. Suddenly Anheuser-Busch was donating $10-20,000 per year to Capitol Advocacy Group. CAG is then making large donations to Senator Kirby.

Is there any particular reason why Anheuser-Busch and Southern Beverage started dropping money bombs and hiring the top lobbyists in 2007? These activities just happened to start taking place right before newly-elected State Senator David Baria began introducing "craft" beer-friendly legislation in the 2008 session? Anheuser-Bush and Southern Beverage have a huge market share in Mississippi and anything affecting said market share is going to draw their undivided attention. The increase in donations by Anheuser-Busch and its PAC to Senator Kirby began after the 2007 elections and right before the 2008 session. Meanwhile, Senator Kirby publicly states he will not allow any "craft" beer legislation to receive a hearing or vote in his committee. Coincidence?

7 comments:

KaptKangaroo said...

She does not know a thing about the beer industry, this I assure you.

Anonymous said...

I know I'll probably be shot down cause some folks are really passionate about this, but I just don't get it. Its beer. Isn't there something a little more important that the legislature could be doing while in session? We have a crime problem and I don't get why beer is so important. Don't mean to offend anyone, I just don't get it.

Anonymous said...

It is the fact that Business is co-opting the legislative process to prevent this bill while supporting the very efforts of Raise Your Pints who are bringing the legislation to the table.

You can't have it both ways. Read.

Anonymous said...

I'm in favor of the Raise Your Pints position. But some people are looking at the money issue simplisticly.

First, Southern Beverage would profit if the bill passed (the one raising the cap to 8% alcohol). There are any number of IPA's (for example) that Southern Beverage would sell if the bill passed.

Second, there are other reasons brewers and distributors make political donations, first among them TO PREVENT an increase in the excise tax on beer, something tax-hungry politicians constantly try to do.

So, it's not all black and white. And you can't take a single issue and imagine a quid-pro-quo.

Anonymous said...

in re: January 31, 2011 3:23 PM

First of all you are looking at this in an overly simplistic manner. Do you know what the three tier distribution system is? Google is your friend. Do you understand the complexities of shelf space management (category management)? Do you know what A/B's share is in MS? Do you know what it used to be? Do you know how much shelf space they have lost in the last few years due to the fragmentation of consumer demand?

Tell me how A/B and SB would be able to bring in off brands. Do you know anything about the master distributorship agreements on the A/B side? Do you? What brands can they distribute? Hmmm. Go read up.

Why would Bud want to bring in other brands? They don't. Bud & BL are HUGE. If you were to bring in a bunch of micro brews and craft beers where do you think the space is going to come from? Hmmmm. You bring in 40 six packs, then, 40 six packs have to go.

What brand has been in decline for YEARS and continues to decline? Bud. You think they want to lose more space for their flagship to additional brands that only fragment the marketplace?

Go take a look at your local grocery some time. It was a few years back that the craft beers BEGAN to make inroads here. Hmmm, about 2007. The space for these brands didn't just magically appear, the space came from existing products. Cap City prospered because they have flexible distribution arrangements allowing them to bring in competing brands under one house. At best, Bud would introduce new products to save the space, but we all remember Tequiza right? It sat on the shelf so long, the product went out of date.

Finally, lets put this into the physical distribution realm. How do you think A/B and/or SB is going to distribute these products when their preference and their profit margins are dependent upon ONE STOP a week and a huge drop.

You simpleton. It is not black and white, it is actually very complex. Highly complex for someone who pretends to understand the complexities of WHY they would be preventing legislation against craft beers while schmoozing the RYP crowd.

And finally, if one side were investing so much, why isn't the Malt Beverage Association screaming about taxes? Sheesh!

OK, your turn. I have simplified this down to a few of the reasons why, if you have other questions, please feel free to pose them.

Anonymous said...

Discover channel has a show entitled, "How Beer Saved the World." Very entertaining documentary! I watched it last night.

Don't know if they will air again soon, but here it the latest link.... http://dsc.discovery.com/tv-schedules/special.html?paid=1.16431.26270.0.0

Cheers!

Anonymous said...

Beer saved the world. Yet again, another strawman. Keep trying. The fact is, beer in MS is a dirty business. Keep trying to put up A/B as a savior. Oh are you trying to equate religion and Budweiser? Hmmm...

Does Mr. Kirby know you are taking the risk of posting the crap you claim?

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