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An open letter to Wine Industry Insight Subscribers from WSWA President and CEO Craig Wolf:

The following was received from Craig Wolf, President and CEO of the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA). The headline and text are printed as received, completely and unedited.

Wine Industry Insight’s response follows WSWA’s letter.

Wine Industry Insight Misleads Readers about WSWA’s Successful Grass Roots Activism

Last week, the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) issued a news release touting some good news: 95 percent of the candidates for office our political action committee (PAC) supported won reelection; and, contributions to our political action committee (PAC) from member firm employees would surpass the $2 million mark for the first time.

The WSWA-PAC is supported by contributions from more than 2,300 individuals employed by wholesalers across the country from field sales staff to management and senior executives. The PAC in turn supports candidates and elected officials who support issues important to our members. About this support, the newsletter headlined: “WSWA millions buy 95 percent success rate in election.”

This headline had nothing to do with the substance of the press release to which it was hyperlinked.  Reading it, you might think a major industry association and advocacy organization was engaged in ‘buying’ elections.  Throwing around trite phrases like that may make for snarky happy hour chatter in some circles, but it’s dishonest and inappropriate.

WSWA-PAC supports candidates from both parties—incumbents and challengers. Those contributions are limited in size, and made in a transparent fashion.

Firms in our industry and in others are struggling in this economy and face ever-increasing government red tape and regulations. Building relationships with elected officials and candidates is essential, and we make no apologies for supporting candidates who understand the concerns of our employees and advocate for causes important to our industry and to them.  When those employees choose to contribute to a candidate or a PAC, they are exercising a fundamental democratic right.

WSWA is proud to work alongside the many other voices in the beer, wine and spirits industry.  In the overwhelming majority of issues, the major players agree and work collaboratively.  There are, as can be expected in a diverse country with a struggling economy, plenty of issues where we disagree.  On those issues, WSWA welcomes the opportunity to respectfully advocate for our members interests—but we do so truthfully and unabashedly.

If Wine Industry Insight, its publishers, writers or readers wish to engage in a thoughtful give-and-take over key issues, we would welcome the opportunity.

Sincerely,

Craig Wolf

President and CEO

WSWA

Wine Industry Insight Headline Did Not Mislead Readers

Email sent to Craig Wolf:

Craig,

Thanks for your letter. I’ll print it fully and unedited.

Having spent some time in politics — running Congressional races, as a top aide to a state governor and in Washington as a top Congressional aide and as a correspondent for two very large media organizations — I have developed certain skeptical (some would say “realistic”) opinions about campaign contributions that could be considered “snarky” but are certainly far from dishonest or inappropriate.

And, I spent enough time inside the Beltway Bubble to realize that the way people there interpret things is often at odds with the rest of America.

You are I are at odds in interpreting this.

Political contributions are made to elect people favorable to the contributor’s viewpoints and to provide a measure of access after the election is over.

The fact that some people have millions to express their opinions and others have a single vote has devalued the democratic process.

WSWA and others certainly have the legal right to express themselves through as much money as they can raise. Nothing illegal about that and neither is the fact that the spend is what buys a favorable environment and access that is denied to most others. Only the truly insane spend when they expect nothing for their money. WSWA is certainly not insane.

What’s more, the Supreme Court says that’s okay. But that does not make it right or good for the country. Because — among other things — it serves to entrench special interests in ways that are frequently to the detriment of the commonweal. We should remember that the Supreme Court once ruled that “separate but equal” was just fine. That turned out to be one of their bigger mistakes.

WSWA and others who picked a winning slate certainly deserve to pat themselves on the back for playing the system well. Indeed, your press release certainly touted WSWA’s success rate.

In reality, your headline: “Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America PAC Achieves 95% Success Rate in Election”

Is not so very different from mine: “WSWA Millions Buy 95% Success Rate in Elections”

WSWA spent millions and you got a 95% success rate. And “to spend” is “to buy.” Nothing at all inaccurate about that. In fact, I believe mine is more accurate and to the point.

The crux of the entire matter is ONE word: you said “achieve” I said “buy.”

And finally, it’s not that I said, “I think I’ll try and make WSWA look bad.”

Nope, the trouble started because the headline was too long and awkwardly phrased. I look at more than 200 web sites every day to gather articles from News Fetch. Marginal news I just leave out. News that belongs gets a quick re-write. I suppose that my subliminal views about campaign finance simply offered a specific interpretation here.

After further review, the interpretation on the field stands.

Lew

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