Save The Craft: Goliath Is Getting Bigger

In Beer Politics by Ryan

Updated 4/20/11 to include former State Rep. Coy Pugh,  former House Democratic staffer Liz Brown, Barbara Staples King and Jennifer Morrison.

A little over a month ago we told you about the “Anheuser-Busch Bill” and some of the players that factored in to the legislation. There is still no language for the bill, but insiders say A-B could make a strong push between now and the end of the legislative session on May 31st to gain self-distribution rights in Illinois. Even worse, A-B could use their array of big name lobbyists to kill Senate Bill 754.

On March 2nd, when we last addressed the AB Bill and the army of “hired guns” the brewing giant retained, they had nine lobbyists from five different firms. Today, AB has contracted out twelve lobbyists from nine different firms. Among them are three of their own lobbyists, a handful of former state lawmakers, three top aides and even a former chief legal counsel to the Illinois Liquor Control Commission. Let’s learn a little more about lobbyists A-B is using to fight against the self-distribution rights of craft brewers in Illinois and the political clout they bring to the table:

  • Michael McClain: A democrat who served in the Illinois House for ten years, from 1973 to 1983. During his time in the legislature he was a seat-mate of current House Speaker and Democratic Party Chairman Michael Madigan (D-Chicago). As we told you in our last writing of McClain, in 1995 he was highlighted in an Illinois Issues piece titled, “Bang! Bang! Your bill is dead. How “hired guns” put the special in special interest lobbying.” In 2007 McClain was also part of an estimated 80 lobbyists to push through rate increases for both Comed and Ameren. The result was a 24% increase in utility bills for customers. Most alarming though is his close ties to Madigan. Insiders say McClain is the only lobbyist that Speaker Madigan will sit down to dinner with, but they do so as pals.
  • Brent Hassert: A former Republican state representative who served 15 years in the House and was a member of the GOP leadership. He was defeated in 2008 by democrat Emily McAsey.
  • Jimmy DeLeo: If you ever read the Chicago Tribune or are familiar with columnist John Kass’ articles then you know the former democratic senator as Jimmy DeLeo (D-How You Doin’?). Otherwise, he’s just James DeLeo (D-Chicago). He left the senate in 2010 as assistant majority leader. He served 18 years in the Illinois legislature.
  • Coy Pugh: Before representing the 10th legislative district in Chicago for nine years Coy Pugh was a gang member.  According to a 1999 Chicago Tribune article, he spent time in prison for theft, unlawful use of weapon and drug possession.
  • Carter Hendren and Tom Taylor: The two make up the lobbying firm of Hendren Taylor Consulting. Carter Hendren ran Jim Edgar’s campaign for Illinois Secretary of State in 1982 and his campaign for governor in 1990, winning both. He also served as chief of staff for then senate majority leader Pate Phillip from 1987 to 2003. Tom Taylor was also a top aide to Phillip.
  • Mike Thomson: During his days as a top aide to House Speaker Madigan Thomson headed up the House Dems issues development staff and was also the political director for the Illinois’ Democratic Party and Speaker Madigan’s personal campaign fund.
  • Liz Brown:  Brown served in a key post under House Speaker Madigan.  As Legislative Director for the House Dems Brown headed up floor operations in the House, analyzed legislation and oversaw both the House Executive and Revenue committees.
  • William O’Donaghue: O’Donaghue has held a number of positions with both the state and the city of Chicago. Most recently he was deputy general counsel for the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. Prior to that he was chief legal counsel to the Illinois Liquor Control Commission and also served as chairman of the Chicago Liquor License Appeal Commission.
  • Barbara Staples King: According to the website, Staples King has worked for a number of big name companies and government bodies over the last five years.  Her client list includes: Phillip Morris, Pfizer, Pepsi, Mastercard, AT&T, ComEd, the Chicago Transit Authority and the City of Chicago.
  • Jennifer Morrison:  Morrison is listed as the exclusive lobbyist for Filson/Gordon Associates, whose client list – past and present – includes Ameren, AT&T, Exelon, Federal Express, Nicor Gas and the Regional Transportation Authority.
  • Mark Bordas, Daniel Kolditz and Thomas Roth: The three make up Anhueser-Busch’s lobbying team. Bordas is director of government affairs, Kolditz is associate general counsel and Roth is a regional director for AB.

If you Google any of these names you’ll likely turn up their legislative history, old campaign websites, maybe a Linkedin profile or an email address. But you won’t find a website. The reason? Their services don’t need to be advertised. Their years in the legislature or on staff speak for themselves and if someone needs to get a hold of them, they can find them.

If you don’t think Anheuser-Busch is serious about gaining self-distribution rights in Illinois or squashing the self-distribution rights of small brewers in the state, just look down this list again. This is a who’s-who of “hired guns.”

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About the Author



Equal parts beer nerd and policy geek, Ryan is now the curator of the Guys Drinking Beer cellar. The skills he once used to dig through the annals of state government as a political reporter are now put to use offering unique takes on barrel-aged stouts, years-old barleywines and 10 + year verticals.

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