Yesterday the bill to let breweries stay open until 10 PM was tabled in committee, which is a fancy way of saying the bill is dead and breweries will be shackled to their 8 PM close time for at least the next two years and probably longer.
Whitefish Democrat Dave Fern was the one who put the brewery bill forth. The 2-page bill is called HB 185.
Here are the 19 members of the House Business and Labor Committee:
- Mark Noland (R)
- Vince Ricci (R)
- Fred Anderson (R)
- Ed Buttrey (R)
- Neil Duram (R)
- Ross Fitzgerald (R)
- Bruce Grubbs (R)
- Steve Gunderson (R)
- Joel Krautter (R)
- Denley Loge (R)
- Sue Vinton (R)
- Sharon Steward Peregoy (D)
- Willis Curdy (D)
- Moffie Funk (D)
- Derek Harvey (D)
- Andrea Olsen (D)
- Gordon Pierson (D)
- Chris Pope (D)
- Katie Sullivan (D)
Now, I’m not able to find out which particular legislators voted to table the bill...though I’m assuming it was most of the Republicans.
So why’d they do that?
Why don’t certain legislators want Montana citizens to drink in breweries past 8 PM?
I think the answer is obvious - it’d hurt bars and the people that own them.
Well...why do certain legislators care about that?
In my opinion, it’s because they’re in the Montana Tavern Association’s pocket.
But how would you know for sure?
That was my dilemma yesterday when I began looking into this brewery bill defeat.
I decided the first place to look would be the Montana Tavern Association’s website. The site is quite throw-back, having a look that reminds me of the early-AOL days.
I don’t think that’s a mistake.
You see, when you go to the site and click on the tab for MTA Committees it doesn’t take you anywhere.
I don’t think that’s a mistake.
That particular tab lists things like:
- Board of Directors
- Action Committee
- Administration & Policy Committee
- Budget & Finance Committee
- Legislative & Gambling Committee
I was really hoping I could access those tabs and find out the names of the people on those various committees.
I wanted to do that so I could cross-reference those names with the names on the campaign finance reports of the Republican legislators that serve on the House Business and Labor Committee.
Alas, without any names on the MT Tavern Association’s site, I can’t do that.
So I decided to use the MT Tavern Association’s contact form to ask about this.
Here’s how that went:
I notice on your site that the tab for “MTA Committees” does not work. Is there any way I can access this?
Sorry Greg! That part of our website is still under construction. If you tell what you are looking for I'd be happy to help you.
Margaret Herriges, Executive Director
MONTANA TAVERN ASSOCIATION
Thanks, I'd just like a list of the people on the board of directors and the people on the various committees.
Who are you with Greg? We do limit how much member information we give away. Our policies allow us to share member contact information on a very limited basis. If you are able (and willing) to share your intent I may be able to make a formal request to provide you a list.
Well, to be honest my goal was to find out your members and then cross-check that with the campaign finance reports of the legislators on the committee that just vote down the recent tavern 10 PM bill to see if any of them might have donated to their campaigns, but I suppose now that won't happen.
As you can imagine, my last response didn’t get a reply.
And do you think that part of the MT Tavern Association’s website is really under construction like their executive director told me...or do you think that’s a bald-faced lie to dissuade people like me from digging into the Association’s business?
It was Great Falls Republican Ed Buttrey that brought forth the motion to table the brewery bill yesterday.
His reasoning was that he wants the breweries and the Tavern Association to come to some kind of agreement before the legislature starts.
In other words, he doesn’t want to decide this issue for them.
Representatives for the breweries feel differently, as they think it is the legislature’s job to decide such issues.
You can read more on this angle in Lee Enterprises. I went with the MT Standard.
So I didn’t get any help from the MT Tavern Association. That didn’t stop me from digging into the Association’s campaign finances.
Sadly, they don’t have any electronic finance reports at all, and their only hard-copy versions are for 2016 and then 2010 and they provide no information.
So I decided to just look into the individuals finance reports of the committee members.
Here’s what I found on that:
- Ed Buttrey: Contributions from the Lindo Bar owner, the two owners of the Emerald City restaurant, the two owners of the City Bar, the Nickel’s Casino owner,
- Fred Anderson: Contributions from the Crystal Lounge owner, the Lindo Bar owner, the owner of Dotty’s Casino, the owner of the City Bar. I have to add that I’ve never seen a legislator take as much money from the gambling lobby as I’ve seen Anderson take.
I looked up some of the other committee members, but there wasn’t anything related to bar owners in their reports.
There was a lot on gambling. Mark Noland, for instance, takes a lot of money from the gambling lobby, as well as money from Charter and the insurance lobby.
Fairfield’s Ross Fitzgerald is also in the gambling lobby’s pocket, as is Bozeman’s Bruce Grubbs.
I found Eureka Republican Neil Duram’s reports interesting - he filed five of them, yet every single one of them is blank.
Now, to be fair I also looked into the finance reports of some of the Democrats on the committee - Moffie Funk, Willis Curdy, and Derek Harvey - but I didn’t see any bar or restaurant owners donating to them like I did with the Republicans.
I did notice that Missoula’s Willis Curdy is heavily in the gambling lobby’s pocket, however, as is Butte’s Derek Harvey.
We detailed the gambling lobby’s corruption last month.
My main goal with this search was to figure out which of the legislators on the committee had been paid off by MT Tavern Association members during their campaigns, with the ultimate goal that those members then vote in favor of the bills that the Tavern Association wants.
We saw this yesterday, when Ed Buttrey brought forth the motion to table, something that helps the Tavern Association. As we saw in his finance reports, Buttrey takes money from bar and restaurant owners.
Personally, I call this legalized corruption.
It really is a ‘you rub my back, I’ll rub yours’ kind of situation.
It makes me sick, but again, it’s all perfectly legal.
This is our system. This is how we want it.
Sometimes people complain about our system, but few do more than that.
I don’t think our system will change, but I do want you to know how it operates. Maybe that way it can change in the future.
Thanks for reading.