The Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America Inc. has brought on two important hires from Capitol Hill to bolster its ongoing lobbying campaign against companies that sell liquor directly to consumers over the Internet.
Former Justice Department attorney Craig Wolf, who had been detailed as counsel to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) for the past 18 months, joined the trade association earlier this week as general counsel. David Sloane, legislative director and deputy chief of staff to Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I) and before that to the late Sen. John H. Chafee (R-R.I.), joined the organization last week as senior vice president of government affairs. Sloane had served as director of government relations for GTE Corp. and deputy assistant secretary of government affairs at the Transportation Department.
"With Craig and David on board, we have the depth of experience to achieve our top priority, which is to be powerful advocates for wholesalers at the federal and state level," said Juanita Duggan, chief executive of the wholesalers group.
The wholesalers are locked in battle with the wineries over legislation supported by Hatch that would allow states to go to federal court to block Internet sales of wine and alcohol. The wineries are not thrilled with the wholesalers' new hire, because Wolf had worked the issue for Hatch.
"He was the broker. . . . We've shared a lot of information with this individual," said Robert Koch, senior vice president of the Wine Institute. "It gives new meaning to the phrase 'revolving door.' " Koch himself is a former Hill denizen. He once worked for House Democratic leader Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.) and as administrative assistant to former representative Tony Coelho (D-Calif.).
But wholesalers' spokesman David Dickerson said the vintners shouldn't be surprised by Wolf's position, noting that as an aide to Hatch he was clearly "working for the sponsor" of the legislation. Dickerson also said that because of revolving-door restrictions Wolf cannot directly lobby the Senate for a year.
Wolf could not be reached for comment.
At issue is the ability of wineries to deliver wine ordered over the Internet directly to consumers. Although Internet sales currently account for a small fraction of wine sales, small wineries say they are an increasingly important way of marketing their goods because wholesalers often won't. Also, the wineries would not have to share revenues with the wholesalers and distributors.
The wholesalers say legislation is needed to prevent youngsters from buying alcohol over the Internet and to allow states to enforce their liquor regulations. Several states have made it a felony to ship wine directly to consumers.
The House passed legislation last year to stiffen penalties for illegal interstate shipments of alcoholic beverages, but also would ban the use of the penalties to protect local companies or impose discriminatory taxation. The Wine Institute and the high-tech industry support the House measure, but oppose a more restrictive measure attached to the Senate's juvenile justice bill, which is pending in a Senate-House conference committee.
Hatch has indicated that he may hold hearings early this session on the issue.
Can the Internet Make the Grade?
Speaking of the Internet . . . David S. Byer is taking a leave of absence from the Software and Information Industry Association to help a new presidential commission develop proposals for policymakers and educators on how to best use the Internet for education.
Byer is the new executive director of the Web-based Education Commission, which is chaired by Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.) and includes other lawmakers, educators and software executives. Byer said the commission "will develop a road map for educators and policymakers to understand how technology can transform learning" and identify what is good on the Internet for education.
"We need to understand the rules of the road of e-education," Byer said.
As for why he left his lobbying job for the commission, Byer said, "I think it's the right thing to do at the right time."
Michael Scanlon, former press secretary for House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), has joined Shandwick Public Affairs as a senior vice president.
Shandwick Public Affairs is part of Shandwick International, a giant advertising-public affairs-lobbying machine. Shandwick International also announced earlier this week the formation of its Global Public Affairs Group, which is "anchored" in Washington but will essentially link all the public affairs people here and in cities around the world. The worldwide group is headed by Dale Leibach, formerly managing director of Powell-Tate, which, along with the rest of the Cassidy Cos. empire, was recently acquired by Shandwick.
"Just as issues cross borders, so will Shandwick's Global Public Affairs Group," Leibach said in a written statement.
Leaving Shandwick . . . Michael Causey, formerly technology group vice president at Shandwick in Washington, has joined Strat@comm, a public affairs shop based in the District, as a senior counselor. Causey will lead Strat@comm's new communications technology practice.