In an irony apparently lost on the Marin Institute, their latest missive to the faithful accuses Big Alcohol of doing “anything” to protect their business. The exact headline is Big Alcohol will do anything to avoid paying for alcohol-related harm. This is related to the industry’s recent support of California Proposition 26, which is attempting to close the loophole created by the California Supreme Court that allows “fees” to be imposed under certain conditions with just a majority vote rather than the 2/3 vote required for ordinary taxes. This has led to a spate of taxes pretending to be fees being imposed throughout the state. The proposition seeks to expose those hidden taxes and subject them to the same standard as any other taxes.
As I wrote before in Trash Talking Prop 26, this proposition was not started by the alcohol industry, or even the oil or tobacco industries, but was a grassroots effort sponsored by the California Chamber of Commerce and the California Taxpayers’ Association, and is supported by nearly sixty chambers of commerce and tax organizations. There is also support from trade organizations in a wide range of businesses and industries. It wasn’t until August that alcohol donations were made and that’s a significant point the Marin Institute is conveniently ignoring. It was at that time that “every company who makes alcohol, distributes alcohol and sells and serves alcohol realized they were under attack by the Marin Institute, who was pushing [San Francisco supervisor John] Avalos and supplying him him with all the resources for the test case to add a new tax to alcohol in San Francisco. That’s when most of us even became aware of Prop 26. Before that, I’d wager, hardly anyone in the alcohol industry had paid it much attention. When you’re being attacked, you tend to defend yourself.”
So at a minimum, the Marin Institute is mis-characterizing Prop 26 and at worst is using the results of its own actions to claim that the alcohol industry will go to great lengths to “avoid paying for alcohol-related harm.” But first of all, the notion of “alcohol-related harm” is something that the Marin Institute made up themselves. Alcohol companies, like any business, are simply trying to protect themselves from having to pay more taxes. This is something every company in every industry would do, in fact has to do, indeed is mandated to do by their corporate charter. Shareholders would be right to revolt if they didn’t take those steps. That the Marin Institute is using this very reasonable and understandable reaction to being attacked by the Marin Institute to paint the industry as going too far is more than a little hypocritical as it shows the lengths that they will go to in bending reality to their service. The rest of the missive also misstates what the proposition is really about, further showing how far they’ll go to further their agenda. If that’s not the pot calling the brew kettle black, I don’t know what is.