Monday, July 12, 2010

The King and His Courtesans

Liz Benjamin is reporting in the NY Daily News about the moonlighting that state Democratic head Charlie King is doing-and it touches on an issue that is dear to our hearts: "Andrew Cuomo has made breaking the special interests' hold on Albany a hallmark of his campaign for governor. But the man he handpicked to run the state Democratic Party calls some of these same special interests clients. Charlie King eagerly took on the role of the Cuomo campaign's chief attack dog. Yet he's maintained his stake in lobbying and consulting firms that represent New York's largest beer distributor, a technology firm and a gaming company."

It is, of course, the beer issue that has gotten our attention-and King, as a Democrat who has been inveighing against the special interests, shouldn't be fronting for the largest and richest beer monopolist in the state: "I deregistered as a lobbyist when becoming executive director of the state party and do not derive any personal income from lobbying," King said. He acknowledged, however, that he continues to have a financial interest in two firms - Movement Group and CGK Partners. His business partner at both firms, Jan Feuerstadt, continues to work as a state lobbyist. Movement Group's clients include GTECH Corp., a gaming technology provider; SAS Institute, a software company, and Manhattan Beer Distributors. Richard Lipsky, a lobbyist who represents the Independent Beer Wholesalers of New York, called it "wrong" for King to hold a party post while having a stake in interests seeking favor at the Capitol. It's especially troubling because it involves a "monopoly" like Manhattan Beer - the "ultimate special interest, at least as far as beer distribution is concerned," Lipsky said."

But it goes beyond this even. The independentt beer wholesalers in the state-but especially in NYC, where S8177 would protect these small wholesalers against the predatory pricing of the franchise monopolies-are part of the gorgeous mosaic that Reverend Jackson would always wax eloquent about. Unlike the single hued franchises, these businesses are African-American headed, woman owned, and Hispanic run enterprises, that actually represent the majority of the beer customers in this town.

King, who as Liz points out, "...also continues to serve as a paid consultant to the Rev. Al Sharpton..," should know better. And his patron Sharpton, if he weren't so busy grazing at the Bloomberg ranch, should himself be out front in defense of these minority owned firms-we know the old Al Sharpton would. And, for that matter, so would the old Jessie Jackson. In fact, that's exactly what Jessie did do back around twenty years ago when his Operation Push enlisted the partnership of Johnny Torres (of the old Metro Spanish Grocers Association) to go into Anheuser Busch.

Jackson emerged from the meeting with a Bud distributorship for his brother in South Carolina-Torres got a pat on the back, but little else. Still, to this day, there is not a single minority owned franchise beer wholesaler in the state-Budweiser, Coors, Corona, Heineken, or Miller. Yet King is trying to muse his power to aggrandize this Augusta Country Club of businesses. Andrew Cuomo should step in and put a stop to this, and turn around and support the independents. That's what Democrats are supposed to be about.