MORE PALMETTO-STYLE CRONY CAPITALISM
Earlier this year we exposed the documented lawlessness of out-of-state liquor provider Total Wine and More (a.k.a. “Big Liquor”). We’ve also reported extensively on this particular company’s dubious business practices – which are “built around defying state liquor laws so as to maintain an unfair competitive advantage over smaller retailers.”
Total Wine has been gaming the system for years … and getting away with it.
Now we’ve learned that this Maryland-based firm – which was ticketed two years ago for violating our state’s liquor laws – has basically paid its way out of trouble by hiring high-priced, well-connected political/ legal talent. Among its representatives? Former S.C. Speaker of the House and ex-U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins of the mega-liberal law firm Nelson Mullins.
State House insiders estimate Total Wine and its allies have spent at least $500,000 this year on political and legal fees – not just to buy their way out of trouble, but ostensibly “reform” state liquor laws in an effort to drive small and medium-sized providers out of business.
In the S.C. General Assembly, these efforts have failed miserably. The S.C. House of Representatives wasn’t buying what they were selling – even when a representative of the company allegedly threatened members of a House committee.
Yet through some very effective influence peddling, Total Wine was able to do what no mom and pop business could afford to do – purchase “justice” in the marketplace.
Total Wine’s business model is simple: If they do not like a law, they ignore it. And if they get caught ignoring it? They settle – promising to never be bad again. In fact according to a settlement agreement obtained by this website under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) – .pdf here – the company has agreed to abide by the law moving forward, and (of course) admitted no wrongdoing.
According to our sources, though, with the ink barely dry on this “slap on the wrist” – Total Wine is already up to its old tricks.
We also hear that Total Wine – since its “reform” bill was shut down in the House this year – is planning on taking its crony capitalist legislation to the State Senate in 2016, where its lobbyists believe it will receive a warmer welcome.
This website finds itself occupying curious ground in this fight. We don’t support bending the rules for Big Liquor, but we don’t think laws should be enacted which give smaller firms an unfair advantage either. Bottom line? We don’t think this is a business the state should regulate at all – a position which puts us at odds with virtually everyone involved in this insider battle.
Our allegiance is to the consumer. And to the free market. Both of which would be served best by zero regulation.
But in lieu of scrapping the state’s liquor laws altogether, there must be fairness for the consumer in the current system.
As we’ve said from beginning of this debate “if a law on the books is being ignored in such a manner as to artificially raise prices on consumers – and if existing laws are being ‘reformed’ in such a way as to jack those prices even higher, then we’ve got a big problem with that.”
And we will continue to call out the companies who game the system at the expense of your wallet or pocketbook.