Fueled by their donations, Mitch McConnell pushes special tax break for bourbon industry

Josh Israel

Josh Israel Senior Investigative Reporter, Think Progress

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and fellow Republican Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul announced a bill on Wednesday to provide special corporate tax advantages for liquor distillers.

A look at McConnell’s campaign finance history may offer a big clue as to why: hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions from the alcoholic beverages sector.

The Advancing Growth in the Economy through Distilled Spirits Act would renew an expiring provision from President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax cut bill that allows for the deduction of interest expenses related to bourbon inventory when the expenses are paid, rather then when the bourbon is bottled and sold. In a joint press release, Paul said the bill would “preserve Kentucky’s signature Bourbon industry by boosting job creation and maintaining a level playing field between Bourbon and whiskey producers at home and their competitors abroad.”

But back in 2010, an examination by the non-partisan Center for Public Integrity calculated the largest individual donors to McConnell over his decades-long tenure in Congress. Of the top five largest career donors, three had ties to the Kentucky-based Brown-Forman Corporation. Brown-Forman’s products include Jack Daniel’s whiskey and Old Forester bourbon.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, in 2014 — the last time McConnell was up for re-election — he also received more in donations from the beer, wine, and liquor sector than any other senator. The total for that campaign alone: $144,950.

So far this year, McConnell has received $5,000 from Brown-Forman’s corporate PAC and $10,000 from the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America.

As majority leader, McConnell has spent most of the 116th Congress ensuring no lawmaking happens. He has boasted of being the “grim reaper” who blocks legislationfrom even coming to the floor and has so stanched the flow of bills that even his Republican colleagues have publicly complained. He has introduced little legislation, aside from housekeeping resolutions required to organize the Senate. So when the Kentucky Republican announces he will push for a bill, it is unusual.

While Paul is in just his second term in the Senate, he too has received tens of thousands in contributions from the alcohol industry.

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Reposted from ThinkProgress

Josh Israel is a senior investigative reporter for ThinkProgress.org at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Previously, he was a reporter and oversaw money-in-politics reporting at the Center for Public Integrity, was chief researcher for Nick Kotz’s acclaimed 2005 book Judgment Days: Lyndon Baines Johnson, Martin Luther King Jr., and the Laws that Changed America, and was president of the Virginia Partisans Gay & Lesbian Democratic Club. A New England-native, Josh received a B.A. in politics from Brandeis University and graduated from the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership at the University of Virginia, in 2004. He has appeared on CNBC, Bloomberg, Fox News, Current TV, and many radio shows across the country.

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Saving the Nation’s Parks

From the USW

From tumbledown bridges to decrepit roads and failing water systems, crumbling infrastructure undermines America’s safety and prosperity. In coming weeks, Union Matters will delve into this neglect and the urgent need for a rebuilding campaign that creates jobs, fuels economic growth and revitalizes communities. 

The wildfires ravaging the West Coast not only pose imminent danger to iconic national parks like Crater Lake in Oregon and the Redwoods in California, but threaten the future of all of America’s beloved scenic places.

As climate change fuels the federal government’s need to spend more of National Park Service (NPS) and U.S. Forest Service budgets on wildfire suppression, massive maintenance backlogs and decrepit infrastructure threaten the entire system of national parks and forests.

A long-overdue infusion of funds into the roads, bridges, tunnels, dams and marinas in these treasured spaces would generate jobs and preserve landmark sites for generations to come.

The infrastructure networks in the nation’s parks long have failed to meet modern-day demand. The American Society of Civil Engineers gave parks a D+ rating in its 2017 infrastructure report card, citing chronic underfunding and deferred maintenance.

Just this year, a large portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is owned and managed by the NPS, collapsed due to heavy rains and slope failures. Projects to prevent disasters like this one get pushed further down the road as wildfire management squeezes agency budgets more each year.

Congress recently passed the Great American Outdoors Act,  allocating billions in new funding for the NPS.

But that’s just a first step in a long yet vital process to bring parks and forests to 21st-century standards. America’s big, open spaces cannot afford to suffer additional neglect.

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