Constellation Brands Inc. denied Thursday that its $25,000 campaign contribution to the re-election of Gov. David Paterson was tied to Paterson’s proposal to allow wine sales in grocery stores.
The donation was made the week before Paterson announced his wine plan Jan. 19, as part of his proposed 2010/2011 budget, raising concern. Blair Horner of New York Public Interest Research Group, said Thursday that “generally speaking, major businesses don’t give campaign contributions out of the goodness of their hearts. They believe it will have influence and they don’t give unless they think it will work.”
Constellation spokeswoman Cheryl Gossin said the contribution is “not in any way connected to the wine in grocery stores” proposal. Constellation made the contribution in response to a campaign fundraiser, Jan. 12, in Rochester organized by community leaders, she said. Constellation had planned to make the contribution a month before that, she added.
While Constellation supports the governor, she said, it has and will remain neutral on the wine-in-grocery stores issue.
Likewise, Richie Fife, spokesman for Paterson’s re-election campaign, said Thursday, “there is absolutely no connection” to the Constellation contribution and the governor’s support for wine in grocery stores.
The long-standing debate over whether New York should allow wine in supermarkets heated up this year with the state’s fiscal woes. Opponents say the proposal would put the state’s roughly 2,700 liquor stores out of business. Supporters say putting wine in the state’s 19,000 groceries and convenient stores would boost wine sales and raise tax revenue.
Somedays, it’s really hard not to be cynical.
If the allegation is true (that is, that Constellation donated money to a politician in order to influence the “wine in grocery stores” issue), it’s only following the example of every other corporate interest who enables the election (or re-election) of politicians who will do their bidding when the contributor’s “booty call” comes in. Every other major legislative and policy decision made in this fine country (financial reform, health care, water rights, direct shipping, and so on) seems to follow this time-honored tradition.
Paterson’s denial-by-proxy that there is no connection is disingenuous at best. The fact that an corporation who had an interest in changing how wine is sold in New York made a sizable (if not six-figure) contribution to the governor’s re-election campaign. The appearance of impropriety is enough that the governor needs to do more than just claim that there’s no connection.
Honestly, what’s the problem with large corporations paying to get their way in politics? Apparently it’s the only way to get things done in the United States. Now, if only the teeming unwashed masses of people who can actually vote a ballot had that kind of influence…