Alcohol Industry, Grocers Back Liquor Samples Bill

February 2, 2015

A legislative proposal to allow liquor stores and other alcohol retailers to give away free liquor samples to shoppers has the backing of the alcohol industry and grocers, which have contributed nearly $1.9 million to candidates for statewide office and the legislature since 2011.

Current state law allows only liquor stores, grocers and other retailers that have Class A beverage licenses to give away beer and wine samples on the premises. This measure would allow retailers to give a customer one half-ounce sample of liquor a day.

The bill has 31 Republican and Democratic Senate and Assembly sponsors and cosponsors and has drawn support from the Wisconsin Wine and Spirit Institute, Wisconsin Grocers Association and Diageo North America , a multinational company that’s one of the world’s largest producers of alcohol.

The spirits industry is a generous special interest contributor to legislative and statewide candidates, doling out about $1.64 million between January 2011 and July 2014. State grocers kicked in another $228,293 in contributions during the period.

Leading recipients of liquor industry contributions who cosponsored the bill were GOP Representative Rick Krug of Rome, $13,658, and Republican Senator Rick Gudex of Fond du Lac, $13,173. One of the bill’s sponsors, GOP Senator Terry Moulton of Chippewa Falls, received $13,035 from the liquor industry.

Gudex and Moulton were also leading recipients of grocer contributions, accepting $3,150 and $1,225, respectively. Another top recipient who also cosponsored the bill, Republican Representative Tyler August of Lake Geneva, accepted $2,100 in grocer contributions.

The top individual contributors from the grocery and liquor industries to all statewide and legislative candidates between 2011 and July 2014 were John and Barbara Nau, owners of Silver Eagle Distributors in Houston, Texas, $110,000; Trygve and Tula Solberg, owners of Trig’s grocery in Minocqua, $42,900; and Aldo Madrigrano, owner of WOW Distributing in Waukesha, $27,250.

Republican Governor Scott Walker, who makes the final decision on whether a bill becomes law if it reaches his desk, was the top recipient of campaign cash from each of these contributors. Walker received $110,000 from the Naus, $22,500 from the Solbergs and $13,000 from Magrigrano.