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Politicians’ efforts to help an out-of-state liquor store may hurt Missouri families

More than one dozen liquor bills in the Missouri General Assembly have popped up this year; most have the unintended consequence of making it easier for Missouri’s young people to have exposure to advertising, merchandise, and shipments of alcohol directly to their homes.

Most particularly troubling is legislation regarding advertising, coupons and rewards programs for discounted intoxicating liquor. The legislation was likely filed on behalf of a company called “Total Wine” which is based on the East Coast. This legislation will be potentially damaging to Missouri’s families and is an unnecessary change to current state laws.

Total Wine is a liquor mega-store owned by David Trone. Total Wine is a market disruptor, particularly damaging towards small businesses that produce, distribute or sell beer and wine. In Missouri, we have 10,000 retailers that sell liquor products.

Total Wine’s owner is also a progressive Democrat that gets heavily involved in politics in states where Total Wine invests.

In December, the Wall Street Journal featured a story spotlighting Trone, calling him a “self-described progressive” that says that he “love[s] business, but [politics is] the only place you can move the needle.” In 2016, Trone spent $13 million of his own funds and lost a congressional race in Maryland. On social issues, Trone is pro-abortion and a defender of Planned Parenthood. He is also a longtime defender of “LGBT rights,” saying “domestic partner benefits to employees more than a decade ago.”

Trone is no stranger to political contributions. In his home state, Total Wine paid a $60,000 settlement for making illegal campaign contributions. He’s now considering running for office again this year.

Called a “bad apple” and “a bully,” Total Wines’ business model is to invest heavily in states that change state and local laws to benefit his company. Crony capitalism is the underlying purpose of many of the bills before the legislature this year.

The result of this legislation will be devastating not only to small businesses, but it will also have a dramatic effect in the amount of advertising families will be inundated with that encourage the consumption of intoxicating liquor. It will also encourage the addiction to such products by promoting increased consumption through coupon, premium, prize, rebate, sales price, loyalty programs, or discount to consumers as an inducement to purchase alcoholic or non-alcoholic merchandise.

The legislation also seeks to disrupt Missouri’s three-tier marketing system for alcohol, which many in the industry say is working.

Total Wine will be harmful to Missouri families and small businesses. In times of economic recovery, the legislature should consider the short and long-term dangers associated with Total Wine’s entry into the marketplace via crony capitalism and pay-to-play politics.

–        Molly Teichman lives in Warrensburg, MO and is the Chairman of Missouri Values Project.