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October 07, 2003

Beer and The California Election

A tape of Al Gore phoned Mickey Kaus over the weekend to make sure he voted against the recall and for Cruz Bustamante, just in case.

This is former vice Precident Al Gore calling to urge you to vote no on the recall. Gray Davis has been a solid progressive governor and deserves to finish out his term. We simply cannot let the right wing Republicans roll back the progress California has been making under Governor Davis. It is very important that you vote no on the recall. Also, as insurance against a strong pro-recall turnout, and to keep a Democrat in the governor's office, continue on the ballot and vote "yes" for Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante to keep the governorship in Democratic hands. So remember, vote no on the recall, and then vote for Cruz Bustamante, who is located on your ballot under the letter "B." Thank you.

Nothing out of the ordinary there so far, other than Mickey might need to puchase new spell check software. What caught his notice was the sponsorship message at the end of the recording.

Paid for by Progressive Democrats and Independents against the recall. Major funding by Anheuser-Busch.

Assuming that the Progressive Democrats and Independents telemarketers were calling from an open list rather than a list of likely Democratic voters, why would Anheuser-Busch take the risk of offending as many potential customers as they attracted with such a sponsorship? Big companies are notoriously averse to associating themsleves with overt political speech, preferring instead to buy their way in through the back door of campaign donations. Mickey posits two explanations for the odd bedfellows.

Possible explanation #1: Maybe Anheuser-Busch executives don't know their company's name is being used in the phone calls. But shouldn't they? ... Possible Explanation #2: Or maybe they figure that in heavily Democratic Venice, where I live, most recipients of the call will think more highly of them because of the Gore/Democrat association.

The odd bedfellows aspect doesn't end there. In the runup to the 2000 election, August Busch III donated money to Gore opponents Bill Bradley and George Bush but gave not a penny to the man whose speech his company is ostensibly paying for now.

I suspect that Anheuser-Busch are funding the calls, though with the understanding that they are not being made from an open list, so as to limit the exposure of the company. I called Anheuser-Busch yesterday in an attempt to see what marketing strategy they were employing here, and though I was promised a call back, none has come so far.

Tthe phone call sponsorship is likely part of an ongoing Anheuser-Busch campaign to woo Latino drinkers, perhaps with a bit of marketing to liberals served on the side.

Anheuser-Busch is one of the major contributors to the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, a fact that's already been making the racist conspiracy rounds. MALDEF also has a recent history of leaning left on political issues, as might be expected.

And is it right for MALDEF to take money from companies selling unhealthy products like alcohol and tobacco to Latinos; companies that then trumpet their "community support?" Anheuser-Busch has a 20+ page color brochure saying, "Anheuser-Busch underwrites programs through support of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) and the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF)."

Why do these seeming slams on Ms. Hernandez relate to her crusade against Miguel Estrada? In the interest of decency and fairness, when Antonia Hernandez and by default, MALDEF, publicly set out to derail the confirmation of a distinguished American like Miguel Estrada, they must have clean hands, unquestioned probity in past behavior and a demonstrable community benefit should they prevail. Estrada¹s detractors must be pristine to be credible.

Though in all fairness I should note that MALDEF is not taking an official position on the Davis recall, it's not hard to predict what the unofficial position is.

Another Villaraigosa friend and ally has been Mario Obledo, co-founder of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), who was awarded the 1998 Presidential Medal of Freedom by Bill Clinton.

“California is going to be a Hispanic state,” Mario Obledo has proclaimed, “and anyone who doesn’t like it should leave. They should go back to Europe.” Does this refer to the Europe that includes Spain and the Spanish language, land from which came the Conquistadors?

Finally, Anheuser-Busch very likely prefers the status quo, as the current political market in California is not so much amenable to the desires of that company as it has been bought by them.

Frustrated in its past attempts to raise the allowable limits for "freebie" giveaway items used to promote beer to consumers and retailers, industry leader Anheuser-Busch instead pulled in some markers and got a last-minute bill introduced two days before the end of the legislative session.

The bill, AB 2551, had previously addressed teacher credentials and was authored by Assembly Speaker Robert Hertzberg, D-Sherman Oaks. As the session drew to a close, Hertzberg stripped the contents of the bill, inserted the beer gifts wording on behalf of brewing behemoth Anheuser-Busch and let Helen Thomson, D-Davis, take over as author of the bill. Thomson's district includes Fairfield, Calif., home of an A-B plant employing some 500 people.
Anheuser-Busch knows its way around the California Legislature, and its campaign contributions are also major league. The company already gave more than $216,000 to various causes in the first six months of this year, according to state records, including $22,000 to Speaker Hertzberg, $1,500 to Thomson and $10,000 to Governor Gray Davis, who is now in a position to approve or veto the bill.

Posted by Bigwig at October 7, 2003 11:41 AM | TrackBack
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