Wine Talk

Snooth User: dmcker

Will Congress ban all direct shipping of alcohol in the USA?

Posted by dmcker, Mar 19, 2010.

As part of the background to this issue, here's a summary of an article in Wine Industry Insight.


Are Beer Wholesalers Buying Votes For A Direct Shipping Ban?
The National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) has made substantial
2009-2010 campaign contributions to 11 of the 14 members of the U.S.
House of Representatives who will determine the future of the NBWA’s
efforts to outlaw direct shipping of any form of alcohol.

At NBWA’s urging, the subcommittee held a hearing March 18 on
direct shipping issues.

According to Wine Industry Insight’s analysis of Federal Elections
Data made available by The Center for Responsive Politics

and <>
, NBWA contributions rank in the top twenty contributors to the
campaigns of those 11 members of the Judiciary Committee’s
Subcommittee on Courts and Competition Policy.

In addition, the NBWA is:

  • The second largest contributor to Subcommittee member and overall Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr.
  • The third largest contributor to Subcommittee Chairman Hank Johnson and to Jason Chaffetz, and Melvin L. Watt.
  • The largest single contributor to Reps. Howard Coble (the ranking GOP member) and F. James Sensenbrenner Jr.

Only three members of the subcommittee did not take money from the


Does anyone else have any information on this issue as it's currently evolving?


Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Mar 19, 2010.

No but it is scary.

Time to stock the cave well and sharpen some sticks though.

Reply by mrrar, Mar 20, 2010.


Congress making such a law could be overturned.  


Most such restrictive laws come from the State level, not the national level.

Also I think you're more likely to see that under a Republican Congress than a Democratic one.


Final note?

Speaker of the House comes from a Wine state. 

Reply by napagirl68, Mar 20, 2010.

Depends who's lining the Depends.. LOL!

Bastards!  It's all about the almightly dollar, isn't it?  Congress voting on "health care reform" when they have the best health care in the nation!   So far removed from everyone else.  

Reply by GregT, Mar 20, 2010.

mrrar - on what basis would such a law be overturned?  The Commerce Clause explicitly gives Congress the right to pass such a law, stating that Congress shall have the power to

"regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes".

Moreover, the basis for overturning most of the state laws was that those impinged on the right of Congress, in that they affected trade between the states as much as within the particular state.  So there is also case law supporting such a bill.

As far as such things being more likely with Republicans than Democrats - on what possible basis can you say that? This is in fact happening right now and which party controls Congress by a significant majority?

From what I've seen, it makes no difference what party someone belongs to and in fact, it's been the Democrats who've been more willing to support the national wholesalers, as shown by the present case.  

Granholm went to the Supreme Court.  Her law was overturned by the Rehnquist Court.  Surely Rehnquist and Scalia were not  Democrats?  Nor did they support the Democrat and her restriction on wine shipments.

The Texas house was 76/74 Rep/Dem when they recently passed another restrictive law on wine shipping.  Almost evenly split, the legislature couldn't have passed the bill w/out real bipartisan support.

In the list of names above, Conyers is a major Democrat power whose wife just got over 3 years for bribery.  He's far from squeaky clean.

In the second group, Chaffetz is a Republican, the other two are Democrats.

IF Congress were to pass such a bill now, and IF it becomes law, it would clearly be passed by a Democrat Congress and signed into law by a Democrat administration.

Reply by mrrar, Mar 21, 2010.

By saying "Democrat" instead of "Democratic," you've sort of illustrated where your political leanings lie, and your inability to look at this objectively.  But okay, cling to that notion.

Reply by GregT, Mar 21, 2010.

I have no idea what that means.

I tried to offer some evidence suggesting the opposite of what you stated.  In fact I'm actually quite interested in any facts or plausible arguments you might provide that indicate a possible Constitutional means of overturning a bill restricting wine sales.

As far as political leanings, neither mine nor yours are relevant.  But you are perceptive to have deduced mine from the post because in fact I did work on one of the campaigns.

Reply by zufrieden, Mar 21, 2010.

You have identified an anti-democratic carbuncle on the rump of parliamentary government. Lobbying is one reason why the US spends a higher proportion of its GDP on health care than any other developed nation yet is not even ranked in the top 25 in terms of health care outcomes. It might be sobering to remember that businesses are not persons and do not have votes. And there is a convincing philosophical basis for this difference.

While businesses have gradually assumed almost every other right of persons but few of the responsibilities (the magic of limited liability comes to mind), the ability to discipline the practice of commerce has diminished.  What has been forgotten is that business operates in a democratic country on sufferance - according to laws and regulations based on those laws. Free enterprise is good, but the form it takes is supposed to derive from agreement in the community of voting citizens.  When highly paid lobbyists - often former Congressmen and Senators (or, in my country, Members of Parliament) have the ear of your representative perhaps it is time to pick up a megaphone and ensure your voice is heard.

There are two solutions here - eliminate lobbying (difficult and fraught with certain other unintended consequences) or exercise your voting franchise often and to good effect. You can stop this kind of nonsense if you work at it.  There are hundreds of thousands of you out there. That's a lot of voice-power from a lot of very urbane and eloquent voters.

While I sympathize with small retailers, they should not be permitted to effect an end-run law that may be contrary to the long-term interests of their customers.

Reply by VegasOenophile, Mar 21, 2010.

Interesting, but think of it this way...

How often do we think cases of wine or booze get sent to the ofices of Congress from one group or another to keep them happy?  I have to doubt this would ever come to fruition, but you never know.

Reply by GregT, Mar 21, 2010.

Zu - you're entirely correct.  Unfortunately.

But when one group is focused and the other diffuse, the former wins.  As long as direct shipping of wine is seen as something of concern only to a few wealthy individuals, these kinds of initiatives can gain traction.  And the demogogues try to sell it as populist legislation.  People need to speak up loudly.

Vegas - surely you don't think something like that would ever occur, do you?


Reply by dmcker, Mar 21, 2010.

One of the thoughts in my mind while making the original post was, of course, the recent entirely-wrong-headed Supreme Court decision on the rights of corporations and interest groups to influence elections. That needs to be overturned, most likely by a law through Congress, toute suite, or things will only get worse, and not just in the form of more expenseve and hard-to-obtain wine. Wonder if it'll be easier to get that kind of legislation through than health care reform, especially with some of the same lobbyists (and many more from other interest groups) against it.

As someone who's lived most of his adult life offshore and seen several other alternatives up close, I agree, Zuf, with your opinion of the US healtcare system. Am currently wrassling with many of its hydra-headed problems as I arrange hospice care for my sole remaining parent. Also have recently had to morally guide a close friend through the difficult exigencies of a troubled birthing experience. Why not call a boil-on-an-ass what it is, more directly? What could be more fundamental to human life than birth and death? And the system in the US doesn't seem to do well in either. Coincidentally, while pondering these issues myself, I ran across this blog by someone who deals with similar problems every day on a professional level:

Back to wine, though, does anyone know anything specific about what's going on with this political initiative? From the little I know, it seems utterly ridiculous and certainly not in the least in the public interest...

Reply by mrrar, Mar 22, 2010.

Meh, you're right about the commerce clause.  I misremembered it. 


My hesitation to continue arguing though is because I'm tired of politics following me to every community I go to, so, rather than become further engrossed in a political argument, I'll step out and stick to the wine.

Reply by zufrieden, Mar 22, 2010.

Yeah, politics are very draining.  

But I think some of us see the problems faced by wine consumers as something not altogether different from the those faced by consumers of other services and goods.  I don't like the trend toward syndicalist interventions in personal liberty and certainly don't appreciate the government telling me how to buy wine simply because some lobby group has pulled an end run.

At least, that's what this Beer Wholesaler's bid looks like to me.

Reply by GregT, Mar 23, 2010.

It's exactly what it is.  This is really out of left field.  I was thinking that the state laws were being struck down one by one and in some cases, the states just abandoned the fight, bowing to consumer pressure.  Both NY and MI went to the Supreme Court.  After the ruling, NY gave up and MI started over again, because of local lobbying. She was willing to throw over the entire nascent MI wine industry too.

Now this. 

It hadn't occured to me that they'd try to get something through Congress.  I wonder how it will break out.  As mrrar pointed out, the Speaker is from a wine producing state, but there aren't any other states where wine has the same economic clout. So she might be willing to trade her vote for something else that she wants.

And it could get ugly.  If someone else threatens to hold up a bill on clean air or environmental rules or defense or something big unless he or she gets support on this, then all bets are off. 

It's not even clear how to fight this because don't forget, under the Commerce Clause, Congress can do almost anything it wants.  That's how it passed the highway bills, the civil rights acts, Medicare, and just about everything else in recent history.  I guess you might argue that a ban on direct shipping would infringe on the rights given to the states by the 21st Amendment, which would be an interesting turn around because the SC has held in the past that the 21st Amendment is circumscribed by the Commerce Clause.  So you'd be turning that argument on its head, but it would be a start.  Of course, the obvious counter argument is that a ban on interestate shipping would have nothing to do with in-state regulation of alcohol sales.

People need to start writing to their representatives and senators. 

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Mar 23, 2010.

 Zufrieden Your post of the 21st, which I have just read only now, is one of the finest on these boards.



Reply by zufrieden, Mar 24, 2010.

This seemed an excellent topic to showcase the connectedness of things and how even the simple (and sublime) pleasures of wine are not unaffected by more general topics of debate.  I enjoyed reading through all the responses to this timely forum which I believe allows us to exercise our thinking across and through a number of related ideas.

And Greg, as a reader of many of your articles, allow me to return your compliment.



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