Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Nancy Pelosi doesn't oppose HR 5034

I emailed my House representative about HR 5034, the beer distributors' bill in which they essentially try to overthrow the Supreme Court decision allowing direct shipping, and have their way with compliant state legislatures.

As my House rep is Nancy Pelosi, who owns a vineyard, I expected her to line up with all the producers opposing the bill: the Wine Institute, the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, and the Kentucky Distillers Association are just three big names. For more about the bill, click here.

I was disappointed. Here's my letter; below is her response.

Dear Congressperson Pelosi:

I hope you will oppose HR 5034, the anti-consumer bill that would make it difficult for small wineries and breweries to get their products to consumers.

I know beer distributors are large contributors to political campaigns, but I hope you will find ways to raise money without providing such an obvious payoff.

This bill benefits nobody but beer, wine and spirits distributors. It is bad for consumers and small businesses and does not help local communities or governments in any way.

Those who support it will be demonstrating for anyone paying attention that their vote is for sale. As you are my representative, I hope you will show the integrity that this district expects.


W. Blake Gray

I got this response by email

May 24, 2010

Dear Mr. Gray:

Thank you for contacting me about H.R. 5034, the Comprehensive Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness Act. I appreciate hearing from you on this issue.

H.R. 5034, introduced by Representative Bill Delahunt (D-MA), would recognize that alcohol is different from other consumer products and that it should be regulated by the States according to the laws thereof.. On April 15, 2010, this bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee. No further action has been taken. Please be assured I will keep your comments under consideration should H.R. 5034 come before the 111th Congress.

Thank you again for contacting me on this important issue. I hope you will continue to communicate with me on matters of concern to you. For more information on this or other issues affecting our city and our nation, please visit my website at or sign up to receive e-mail updates at

Nancy Pelosi

Member of Congress

Please do not reply to this e-mail because this mailbox is unattended.

Now, to be fair to Pelosi, what she's saying is that it's in committee and she hasn't had to make any decision. She's not for it or against it yet because she doesn't have to be.

I guess I was hoping for a little more commitment than that from a vineyard owner who represents the most wine-loving city in America. I'm just so naive.


Anonymous said...

...and you are surprised how?

Anonymous said...

Blake, you have obviously not spent much time in Washington, D.C. I worked in the nation's capitol for many years and Pelosi's response is typical bureaucratic speak for no position taken as in 'why take a position on a bill when it isn't even out of committee?'. My bet is she will definitely come out slugging against it when and if she needs to. The bill is going to receive so much backslash if it comes to a floor vote from constituencies throughout the country it will make the Tea Party beg for silence. That's not to say we don't need to continue to be vocal in our opposition to it. But we have to remember that this quiet (my bet is nationwide, not many people even know about it yet), malicious bill sponsored by the beermeister contingency will surely fail. Thanks for your post.

W. Blake Gray said...

Anon: You're right that Pelosi's response is typical.

But I don't think you're right about how much backlash this bill will generate. I don't think most people will pay attention, and the bill is arcane enough that the distributors' spokesman already fooled the Wall Street Journal into doing a misleading summary. And it has more than 90 cosponsors now.

I am convinced that people who DO understand the bill's implications need to speak up against it, which is why I'm doing so.

Jon Bjork said...

Here's the response I just received from Senator Dianne Feinstein:

Dear Mr. Bjork:

Thank you for writing to express your opposition to H.R. 5034, the "Comprehensive Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness Act." I appreciate hearing from you and welcome the opportunity to respond.

Congress is expressly granted the power under the Constitution to enact federal laws that supersede state laws. While sometimes it is necessary to preempt state law for the sake of uniformity, Congress should only do so with careful consideration of the effects on state laws and protection of consumers. With these goals in mind, Congress has long sought to ensure that states can regulate the sale of alcoholic beverages consistent with their public policy but cannot discriminate against out-of-state shippers. In the 2005 case of Granholm v. Heald, the Supreme Court held that state schemes that allow in-state, but not out-of-state, wineries to make direct sales to consumers discriminate against interstate commerce and unconstitutionally limit direct-sale shipments.

I have long supported the ability of wineries to ship directly to consumers. Direct shipping enhances consumer choice and can be an important market for small, niche wineries - many of which are located in California.

On April 15, 2010, Representative Bill Delahunt (D-MA) introduced H.R. 5034, the "Comprehensive Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness Act." This legislation would declare that it is the policy of Congress that each State or territory shall have the primary authority to regulate alcoholic beverages and that state alcohol regulations shall be accorded a strong presumption of validity when they are challenged in court. I understand your concern that this bill could allow states to discriminate against or otherwise limit direct-to-consumer shipments from local wineries in California to out-of-state customers.

H.R. 5034 has been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary, and companion legislation has not been introduced in the Senate. Please be assured that I will keep your concerns in mind should this bill or related legislation be considered by the Senate

Again, thank you for writing. I hope you will continue to keep in touch with me on issues of importance to you. If you should have any further questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact my office in Washington, D.C. at (202) 224-3841. Best regards.

Sincerely yours,
Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

W. Blake Gray said...

Jon: Thank you for posting that. That's what I hoped to see from Nancy Pelosi, especially that sentence about supporting direct shipping.

Gabriel said...

I was pleased with Zoe Lofgren's response to me:

Dear Mr. Carrejo: Thank you for contacting me to express your opposition to H.R. 5034, the Comprehensive Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness Act of 2010. I appreciate that you took the time to share your thoughts with me. H.R. 5034 has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee, on which I serve. I share your concern about the potential impact of this legislation on direct sales by wineries and so have declined to add my support to this bill. As the Committee considers the bill, I will be sure to keep your comments in mind. I agree with you that burdens on interstate commerce would not be good for California or America. Again, thanks for being in touch. If I may ever be of any assistance to you or your family, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Zoe Lofgren
Member of Congress

W. Blake Gray said...

Gabriel, thanks for posting that. That's the kind of response we want to see.