North Carolina’s big beer distributors took smaller craft brewers to school during the legislative session this year, pouring more than $90,000 into the campaigns of influential lawmakers such as Senate president pro-tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore. Berger got more than $30,000 from the distributors and Moore got more than $20,000.
The big distributors were fighting — and won the fight, by the way — an effort led by a couple of smaller craft brewers out of Charlotte to raise the cap on the self-distribution of their products, the limit beyond which the smaller guys have to pay the bigger guys for distribution. The distributors argue they’re actually helping the craft beer industry and its brewers expand, and thus preventing the big brewers from having their own distribution system and expanding their market to the detriment of the small brewers.
But the battle really revealed more about playing the political game than anything else. The distributors wanted to make the machinery of government work for their benefit, and nothing helps the ol’ machinery like a little old-fashioned green grease. The distributors, through the N.C. Beer & Wine Wholesalers political action committee, just say this is nothing special and they’re just supporting their friends on Jones Street. Now it remains an issue for the courts.
The meaning of “beer money” is expanding, yes indeed.