Tuesday Jolt: Booze Money

By Afternoon Jolt October 4, 2011

Today's winner: Costco.

The money duel between the pro-liquor privatization camp (Costco) and the anti-liquor privatization camp (beer and wine wholesalers) continues.

A new $1.7 million contribution from Costco now puts the pro-liquor privatization campaign, the Yes on I-1183 Coalition, ahead by about $700,000. Costco, which stands to be a big winner if I-1183 passes, made its latest contribution on September 28, bringing its total spend to more than $7 million out of the $8.1 million raised overall by the pro side.

Costco has a vested interest in the measure; I-1183 takes liquor sales out of the hands of state-run stores and grants the privilege of distribution and selling to stores with at least 10,000 square feet. Stores would have to give 17 percent of annual booze revenues to the state.

Meanwhile, opponents of I-1183, Protect Our Communities, booked some serious contributions since we last checked a week ago as well. They've added another $1.4 million themselves with big contributions from the Washington Beer & Wine Wholesaler Association, the National Beer Wholesalers ($500,000 from each), and $150,000 from UFCW Local 21, which represents state liquor store workers. Their total raised is $7.4 million.

The combined fundraising comes to $15.5 million, which tops the nearly $15 million raised in the fight over I-1100, last year's losing liquor privatization measure (also headed up by Costco).

Costco tweaked the I-1100 formula, which didn't have the square footage requirement, to fend off criticism that every neighborhood mini-mart would transform into a liquor store. Protect Our Communities, clearly recognizing that the mini-mart fear killed I-1100 last time, has focused on a loophole in this year's do-over that they maintain will allow small stores to sell booze.

The scare tactic is evidently working: The latest polling shows support for liquor privatization slipping from 50 percent support in August to 46 percent support in September.

Nothing another $1.7 million won't fix, Costco believes evidently.
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