Do you remember when Indiana Beverage Alliance President Marc Carmichael called Indiana Senate Bill 415 “my turd in the punch bowl?” Those were classier times. The IBA was sending its turd missile bill toward Monarch Beverage, which was trying to change Indiana law so that it could distribute liquor as well as beer. Both liquor and beer wholesalers feared that it would help create a distribution monopoly, which seemed like a fair assessment. From the Indianapolis Business Journal:
Having failed to get bills passed over four sessions, Monarch turned last year to federal court with a lawsuit against the Alcohol and Tobacco Commission, saying Indiana’s law violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.
Just when we almost forgot about this excellent moment, the story recently took a new turn. The Indiana Star reported that the IBA, characterized as “a group of smaller beer distributors that compete with Monarch,” accused Monarch of illegal campaign financing. The accusation alleges that Monarch illegally gave nearly $1.5 million in campaign cash through a limited liability company called Vision Concepts that appears to be owned by Monarch. They have the same address and chief executive, at least.
Vision Concepts is a marketing firm that sells promotional services primarily to the alcoholic beverage industry, and Monarch Beverage is a six-decade old beverage distributor currently representing more than 500 brands and delivering an average of 60,000 cases of product a day to retail customers throughout the Hoosier State. That’s a pretty powerful duo. They also peddle a lot of craft brands. The complaint is pending before the Indiana Election Commission.
Monarch and Vision Concepts say they’ve done nothing wrong. The companies — which have the same address and chief executive — have hired top-flight lawyers, including former Indiana Republican Party Chairman Murray Clark, to fight the accusation.
At issue is a state law that limits corporations like Monarch to giving $22,000 a year to state and local campaigns. Those limits are intended to prevent powerful companies with deep pockets from hijacking the election process.
Of course, the best part of this story is that apparently IBA members might, allegedly, be doing the exact same thing.
In fact, an Indianapolis Star review of campaign finance records found that several of Monarch’s competitors — including members of the Beverage Alliance — have affiliated LLCs that have contributed more than would be allowed under the corporate caps.
States vary quite a bit on how they treat corporate and LLC contributions, but the whole affair looks to be the old and familiar battle over fair distribution. How should all of this be resolved? More lawyers? Please, let us know below.