With little fanfare, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn made an appointment to the Illinois Liquor Control Commission on Friday May 4th.
Cynthia Cahill is the appointee. She is a partner at an accounting firm in the suburbs, has been a long-time friend of the governor’s and her brother is a former state senator and current DuPage County board chairman.
Normally my former-political reporter self would be up in arms over the apparent nepotism at work here. But not today. No, today the red flag waving in front of my face is over the timing of this appointment.
The Illinois Liquor Control Commission is meeting tomorrow, a mere 5 days after Cynthia Cahill was appointed. And we’re hearing whispers that are rising to a roar over a possible decision regarding Anheuser-Busch, WEDCO and City Beverage.
The timing is curious.
So we went to the source on this one for an explanation, the governor’s office. We asked a spokesperson about the timing of this appointment. She responded by leaping to the defense of Ms. Cahill and her qualifications to hold the post which, by the way, pays $32,800 a year and comes with pension benefits and healthcare.
Lost in translation, seemingly, was our concern with the timing. You see, we don’t really care who was appointed. It’s when the appointment happened, five days before what could be a pivotal vote by the commission. We pressed further on the curious timing of the appointment and we received a one sentence response.
“Governor Quinn is very confident in her abilities and she’ll be an asset to the board during all decisions.”
This appointment comes after Governor Quinn re-appointed two other commission members, Don O’Connell and James Pandolfi.
So what is potentially at stake tomorrow? The beer distribution game in Illinois, moving forward.
The commission has been deliberating for months over whether or not WEDCO, a wholly owned subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch, can retain its 30% stake in distributor City Beverage in light of the change last year in the Illinois Liquor Control Act regarding self-distribution rights for small brewers.
The Associated Beer Distributors of Illinois contends that SB 754 – which was signed in to law last summer – takes A-B InBev out of the distribution game in Illinois, according to president Bill Olson. “We hope that the LCC will rule on ABI’s ownership of City Beverage supporting the legislative intent of the Illinois General Assembly as stated in debate by the bill’s House sponsor Rep. Frank Mautino, ‘all brewers, in state and out-of-state, manufacturing beer above the craft brewer limits may not self-distribute or own a distributorship in Illinois. The Bill is consistent with the clarification suggested by Federal District court in the case entitled Anheuser-Busch, et al v. Stephen B. Schnorf, et al,’” said Olson.
But Anheuser-Busch’s Regional VP of State Affairs, Mark Bordas, told us in December he didn’t think SB 754 was that far-reaching. “Senate Bill 754 allowed certain small brewers to self-distribute – but failed to address who may hold an interest in a distributor,” said Bordas.
The concern; is allowing AB InBev to control even a minority stake in a distributor akin to self-distribution? If so, then that is against current Illinois law. But if it isn’t, does that open the door for AB InBev to go after the remaining 70-percent of City Beverage and own it outright?
Connecting The Dots
Let’s lay our cards out on the table here, some that we have previously discussed and others we have not, and see what we’ve got.
AB InBev is still retaining an army of lobbyists in Springfield. And, as we understand, some have been doing more image management of the brewing giant than lobbying specific legislation. An estimated 13 high-profile, clout-heavy lobbyists from 10 firms are in AB’s stable.
And since this image reconstruction has been in the works two liquor control commission members were re-appointed and a new member was appointed to a months vacant seat less than a week before a meeting.
If something does happen tomorrow regarding WEDCO and City Beverage attention should be immediately turned to the commission’s vote on the issue, if that is made public, and how Ms. Cahill, Mr. O’Connell, Mr. Pandolfi and Chairman Steve Schnorf voted.
Their votes may very well clearly connect these dots.