consultants are sandburs

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A story of politics at its worse, money trumping other money, in of all things, liquor profits, taxes -and- sales.

This link for full story, this headline/excerpt:

First published Saturday, September 13, 2014 at 5:58 PM
Costco execs turn tables on state Senate Democrats

After being stiff-armed by Democrats on a liquor-tax dispute, Costco execs have shifted their loyalties to Republicans in this year’s state Senate races.

By Jim Brunner - Seattle Times political reporter

[...] Brent Ludeman, executive director of the Senate Republican Campaign Committee, said while he did not want to comment on the reasons behind specific donations, “The Majority Coalition Caucus has been very successful at reaching across the aisle and showing it can promote solid business policies that support local companies like Costco.”

The legislation Costco has sought from state lawmakers over the past two years would get rid of the 17 percent “retail license fee” that retailers must charge on liquor they sell to restaurants and bars. Liquor-distribution wholesalers pay a 5 percent fee on sales to restaurants and bars.

Costco and its allies in the grocery and restaurant industries say they’re trying to reverse an unfair decision by the state Liquor Control Board, which applied that fee despite some early indications it would not be charged on such sales. The added expense makes it unfeasible for restaurants to buy from Costco or other retailers if they run out of booze between deliveries, they argue.

“Costco is not trying to steal anything from anybody. They’re just trying to compete on a level playing field,” said Bruce Beckett, government affairs director for the Washington Restaurant Association.

Senate Bill 6220, which would have eliminated that fee, passed the state Senate this year, with support of Republicans and opposition from most Democrats. But the proposal was stalled in the state House.

Opponents accuse Costco of cynically trying to rewrite the rules in its favor — after already having spent $22 million on its successful initiative to privatize liquor sales in 2011.

“They wrote the initiative. It’s kind of offensive to me,” said John Guadnola, executive director of the Association of Washington Spirits and Wine Distributors. He said Costco’s goal is to compete with distributors without paying its fair share of fees.

Interested in maintaining the status quo, the distributors group has also made plenty of political donations ahead of this year’s elections — giving more than $180,000 to Democratic legislative candidates and committees, and $25,000 to Republicans, according to PDC filings.

The proposal also was opposed by unions including the Teamsters, which feared job losses for its truck drivers if distributors lost sales to Costco or other grocers. Critics also pointed to the potential loss of state revenue, estimated at $1.2 million a year, according to an estimate by nonpartisan legislative staff.

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