Democratic state senator Ben Hueso, busted for drunk driving after a well-publicized bender on a capitol balcony during which he was photographed by fellow Latino Caucus legislator Lorena Gonzalez, is perhaps not a surprising magnet for booze-business money. His most recent alcohol-industry-related campaign contribution came from Southern Wine and Spirits of America, Inc., of Miami Florida, which kicked in $2000 on September 8. “As the country’s largest wine and spirits distributor, Southern is nationally recognized by its supplier partners as well as by its customers for its state-of-the-art distribution capabilities and its leading-edge information technology,” says the company website. Founded in 1968 in Florida by Jay W. Weiss, Harvey R. Chaplin, and Howard Preuss, the company has since moved into California in a big way. An October 1999 story in the Wall Street Journal raised questions about the firm’s possible past links to mob figures and Miami lawyer and alleged Meyer Lansky intimate Alvin I. Malnik. Noted the Journal, “In written responses to questions, Southern says that it has ‘never benefited nor knowingly had a business relationship with any official who has or had ties to organized crime.’”
Southern has employed the Sacramento-based Flanigan Law firm as its lobbyist, paying a total of $93,491 through this year’s legislative session as of June 30. Long familiar with high times, Hueso has many other liquor-related donors, including Anheuser-Busch Companies ($1100), the American Beverage Association PAC ($4100), the California Association of Winegrape Growers State PAC ($2250), the California Beer and Beverage Distributors Community Affairs PAC ($1000), E&J Gallo Winery ($2500), and San Diego’s Karl Strauss Brewing Company ($149).
Another infamous law-making drinker is GOP assemblyman Martin Garrick, who was busted in June 2011 after a frantic pursuit by Sacramento cops that didn’t end until the legislator reached the state capitol garage. Garrick, who has set up a committee to run for state senate in 2018, has collected $1500 each from the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States and Anheuser-Busch. Southern Wine and Spirits gave $3900 and the California Beer and Beverage Distributors donated $1500. … Fallen San Diego GOP mayor Roger Hedgecock, who no longer has his cable talk-show gig at Douglas Manchester’s U-T San Diego, still managed to come up with a $2500 contribution to the local Republican Party on September 6.