SPECIAL REPORT: The Spirits Industry’s Political Donations To Election Fraud Conspiracy Backers

By B.E. Mintz |

On January 6, an armed mob of insurrectionists loyal to President Trump stormed the United States Capitol, killing two Capitol Police officers, injuring dozens of others, and placing US democracy on life support. In the wake of the failed coup, 154 Republican Congresspersons and Senators formally objected to certifying Joe Biden’s electoral win, clinging to the lie that Trump was cheated.

Many of these Congressional enablers also received financial support from the spirits industry.

A Neat Pour investigation revealed donations to 27 objecting Congressmen and three objecting Senators from Bacardi, Beam-Suntory, Brown-Forman, Diageo, Pernod Ricard, and/or the Sazerac Company totaling at least $146,918 over a five year period.

Method

NOTE: This report draws upon information compiled for a previous Neat Pour investigations. To view a full detailing of every political donation by spirits companies, as well as a full explanation of methodology and the details of Employee PAC’s, please click here.

The reporting team began by searching for Employee PAC’s attached to the nation’s eight largest spirits companies. Employee PACs a legal workaround that allow corporations to make political donations through affiliated Political Action Committees funded and directed by the corporation’s senior leadership.

Examining the industry’s eight largest corporations, Neat Pour did not discover any PACs affiliated with Grupo Campari or William Grant & Sons. However, the remaining six companies were clearly represented by Bacardi Corporate PAC, Beam Suntory Inc PAC, Brown-Forman Corporation Non Partisan Committee For Responsible Government, Diageo North America, Inc. Employees’ Political Participation Committee, Pernod Ricard, LLC PAC, and Sazerac Company Inc. 

Note: For the remainder of the article, we abbreviate connected PACs, but using the parent company’s name eg ‘Diageo North America, Inc. Employees’ Political Participation Committee’ is simply referenced as ‘Diageo’. Additionally, Sazerac Co. had two connected PACs over the five and a half year span examined, we reference them both as ‘Sazerac’.

The information that follows was sourced from the Federal Election Committee (FEC) records for the period beginning on Jan 1 2016 and ending on May 31, 2020.

While the numbers may appear relatively small in comparison to these conglomerates’ multi-billion dollar revenues, keep in mind that the FEC enforces limits in giving to both the Employee PACs and the candidates’ PACs. More on that here.

Madness

Hal Rogers of Kentucky was the only member of the state’s predominantly Republican delegation to vote against certifying the election. Rogers also received the most liquor industry donations of the insurrection backing Congressmen. His PAC’s netted a combined $30,500 from Beam-Suntory, Brown-Forman, and the Sazerac Co.

Previously dubbed ‘Pork Barrel Hal’ by the Lexington Herald Leader, Rogers was steadfast in his defense of Trump’s unfounded election fraud allegations. “I received hundreds of calls and emails from people across southern and eastern Kentucky questioning the integrity of the presidential election in other states,” Rogers said in a statement.

In second place was California’s Kevin McCarthy. The House Minority Leader pulled in a total of $21,000 from Beam-Suntory, Brown-Forman, Diageo, and Pernod Ricard. McCarthy objected to the election certification and voted against the second impeachment, but conceded that Trump “bears responsibility [for the insurrection]” during a floor speech.

Rounding out the top three was fellow Californian and loyal Trump lackey Devin Nunes. Nunes raked in $11,995 from Diageo plus another $1000 from Sazerac.

Other notable diehard ReTrumplicans include California’s Darrell Issa and Florida’s Matt Gaetz, The pair hauled in $1000 and $4500, respectively, from Bacardi. If your memory of January 6 is hazy, following the riots Gaetz delivered a fiery floor speech blaming the Democrats and antifa for the insurrection and perpetuating the “systemic election fraud” conspiracy theory.

“This morning, President Trump explicitly called for demonstrations and protests to be peaceful. He was far more — you can moan and groan — but he was far more explicit about his calls for peace than some of the BLM and left-wing rioters were this summer when we saw violence sweep across this nation,” Gaetz said at the time.

Pregnant Replies

Bacardi donated a total of $26,810 to Congressmen Gaetz, Mark Green, Jeff Duncan, John Rutherford, Issa, Mario Diaz-Balart, and Senator Ted Cruz. Bacardi’s portfolio includes the Bacardi Rums, Patron, Bombay, Dewar’s, Angel’s Envy, Noilly Prat, Martini & Rossi, Grey Goose, Benedectin, and St-Germain. As a privately owned company, Bacardi’s contact information is well shielded, but their Office of Corporate Responsibility can be emailed, CorporateResponsibility@Bacardi.com.

Beam-Suntory spent $13,000 on donations to McCarthy and Rogers. Their notable brands include the titular Beam and Suntory as well as Knob Creek, Maker’s Mark, Baker’s Booker’s, Hornitos, Sauza, Courvosier, Effen, Sipsmith, Roku, and the DeKuyper range. Brett Hale is Beam-Suntory’s Vice President for Global Public Affairs; he can be emailed at Brett.Hale@BeamSuntory.com.

Brown-Forman dropped a total of $34,288 on McCarthy, Rogers, Chuck Fleischman, and Scott DesJarlais. Brown’s notable brands include Jack Daniels, Woodford Reserve, Herradura, el Jimador, Finlandia, Korbel, Chambord, and Ford’s. Brown’s Board of Directors can be reached through General Counsel Matthew E. Hamel, 850 Dixie Highway Louisville, Kentucky 40210 or Brown-Forman@b-f.com.

Diageo donated $35,280 to six Congresspersons: Scott Fitzgerald, Steve Scalise, Mike Kelly, Frank Lucas, Nunes, and McCarthy. Diageo’s notable brands include Johnnie Walker, Talisker, Crown Royal, Lagavulin, Bulleit, Smirnnoff, Ciroc, Ketel One, Captain Morgan, Casamigos, Don Julio, Gordon’s, Tanqueray, and Guiness. Contact info for Diageo’s executive team was not publicly available, but the Company Secretary can be reached Lakeside Drive, Park Royal, London, NW10 7HQ or via phone at +44 (0) 20 8978 4617 or fax at +44 (0) 20 8978 1577 or email the.cosec@diageo.com.

Pernod-Ricard’s website boasts a BLM link atop the homepage. All the same, their employee PAC threw down $25,000 in donations to Congressmen Greg Steube, Greg Pence, and McCarthy and Senator Rick Scott. Pernod’s marquis brands include Jameson, Absolute, Glenlivet, Altos, Martell, Malibu, Kahlua, Beefeater, Monkey 47, Plymouth, Mumm, and Perrier-Jouet. Pernod, also, offered scant contact info, but their corporate HQ can be reached at 5, Cours Paul Ricard, 75380 Paris CEDEX 08 or +33 (0)170931600.

The Sazerac Co. spent $15,000 on Congresspersons Stephanie Bice, David Kusthoff, Mike Kelly, Nunes, and Rogers as well as Senator John Kennedy. Their portfolio highlights include Sazerac Rye, Sazerac de Forge, Fireball, Southern Comfort, Eagle Rare, Buffalo Trace, Blanton’s Weller, George T. Stagg, and Van Winkle. Sazerac Co. President & CEO Mark Brown can be reached mbrown@sazerac.com.

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