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The politics of beer: How craft brewers are using election-style tactics to change a law – Buy Craft Beer Online Free Shipping
It has all the trappings of a political campaign: strategists, pollsters, grassroots organizers and even campaign buttons. But it’s not an election. It’s the campaign by craft brewers to change a state law that could limit their production.Like other groups that have faced tough legislative fights, brewers are turning to the tactics of political campaigns, trying not to elect lawmakers but to persuade them – often through their own voters. It’s a game plan familiar in Washington but still rare in North Carolina, where interest groups traditionally rely on professional lobbyists.“There’s an inside ball game and an outside ball game,” says strategist Paul Shumaker. “Lobbyists specialize on the inside game. I specialize in the outside game.”
The brewers, led by Charlotte’s John Marrino of Olde Mecklenburg Brewery and Todd and Suzie Ford of NoDa Brewing, want to change the law that forces them to contract with distributors once their annual production hits 25,000 barrels. They say that’s not only costly but would lead to curtailed growth and employee layoffs. They support House Bill 500, which would raise the cap.
Against them are the N.C. Beer & Wine Wholesalers. They say rather than hurt craft brewers, they expand their markets. They’ve reinforced their clout with nearly $1.5 million to political campaigns over the last four years, according to Democracy North Carolina.
Distributors have hired a dozen lobbyists, including former Senate Rules Chairman Tom Apodaca. Brewers have their own lobbyists. But they’re putting much of their hope in what they call the Craft Freedom campaign.
“We certainly can’t outspend our opponents, but they told me people trump money,” Marrino said. “We feel the public is probably our ace in the hole.”
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