by Max Brantley
BELLY UP TO THE BAR: More where this came from for ABC employees.
Arkansas alcoholic beverage regulators are intent on raising fees on beer, wine and booze.
It's been mentioned previously elsewhere, but these fees in part will punish some new small wine wholesalers. Big increases will be almost prohibitive for them, but meaningless to the couple of major wholesalers who control most of the wine business in the state. Can you say anti-competitive?
But there's lots more in store from Beebe's new regulator, who must be spending a lot of time at the booze lobby's private table at Mallard's for these ideas.
Just in time for the anti-competitive favor that ABC regulators have in store for major wholesalers is a breathtaking new rule to allow ABC employees to accept gifts from people they regulate. Get out the dolly for cases of small-batch bourbon, boys.
ABC Director Michael Langley (still waiting for your report, Mike, on the ABC employee who sent out the racist anti-Obama message on your agency's computer) explains that the anti-gift rule has no teeth because no penalties are included.
Is this classic boodling or what? Rather than add penalties, to make a perfectly common-sense rule have teeth, Langley proposes to eliminate the rule. Why not allow the wholesalers to give cases of craft beer, premier cru wine and single-malt Scotch to legislators, too? Eliminate the ABC middleman on influence peddling.
Sheesh. What a note to start the morning on.
Has Gov. Mike Beebe signed off on this? He likes a good cabernet now and then.
PS: I do like the idea of extending permitted Sunday drink hours to midnight. Not that I'm ever up that late.
PPS: A former legislator says hooch suppliers already ply lawmakers with freebies. But he can't be right. I've never seen the report of free whiskey, etc., on any legislator's statement of financial interest. A legislator wouldn't lie, would he/she?
This reminds me of a famous liquor lobbyist, who I've seen swilling at Mallard's with legislators. Last time I looked, he reported no social expenditures on legislators. The ones he drinks with pick up their own tabs, I'm sure. Otherwise, he and they would be reporting. Right? (A good night of drinking at Mallard's will quickly exceed the reporting threshhold.)
It is good to know we can trust legislators to self-regulate (medicate?). Those who suggest we need tighter ethical limits are just out of touch with moral values at the Capitol.