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Miller steps up nationwide lobbying in face of opposition.

Miller steps up nationwide lobbying in face of opposition

A brewing company spokesman says there's a good reason why the beer industry has stepped up its statehouse lobbying efforts.

"Everybody's got something against us," Miller Brewing Co. spokesman Steven Forsyth said. "Everybody wants to regulate us. We simply have to stay involved."

The Milwaukee-based Miller was by far Wisconsin's largest spender on lobbying last year, reporting $318,031 in lobbying expenditures to the secretary of state's office, state records show.

O. Dan Griffith, president of the Association of Lobbyists in Madison, said the beer industry was being singled out for legislation now in much the same way the mining and banking industries had been in recent years.

"This happens to be a session that involves the beer industry," he said.

For instance, Miller faces opposition on a variety of issues currently before the Legislature in Wisconsin, including:

Several efforts to limit the consumption or sale of beer.

Methods of financing sewer construction in the Milwaukee area. Miller is a major user of the sewer system.

"We have a lot of issues always in the news. They need explanation and communication, and that's what lobbying is all about," said Richard J. Klemp, Miller's director of government affairs.

Miller officials say it is impossible to determine total lobbying expenses, because of the wide range of activities that could be construed as lobbying and the difficulty in isolating their costs.

Getting a big chunk of Miller's money - more than $70,000 last year - was lobbyist Martin J. Schreiber, a former acting governor and one-time candidate for mayor of Milwaukee. Schreiber's major efforts for Miller involved sewer legislation.

Schreiber said his efforts for Miller also included work with Wisconsin Industries Saving Our Environment, a group trying to improve recycling efforts.

Presenting Miller's side, Klemp said a proposed ban on cans with a steel body and aluminum top would wipe out the flexibility brewers want in packaging and eliminate a lever to keep down the price of aluminum.

"We don't want to be closed out of any packaging options," he said.

Miller also opposes forced deposits on containers, because, he said, "It's a tremendous burden all around for a very small benefit."

Miller has been neutral on proposed changes in the drinking age, now 21, but Klemp said Miller and other brewers probably would oppose raising it above 21.

Other legislation affecting brewers and their lobbying efforts includes proposals to ban beer sales where fuel is sold, such as at some convenience stores and gas stations; legislation on contracts between brewers and distributors; sales taxes on advertising; taxes on certain packaging; and laws limiting truck length.

At the federal level, the issues are warning labels on alcoholic beverages, proposed bans or limits on advertising of such beverages, and additional taxes on alcoholic beverages, which brewers see as attempts to ban alcohol by making it too expensive.

Carrying the ball for the brewewers in Washington is James C. Sanders, president Beer Institute.

Though the institute is registered as a lobbyist in Washington, it does little actual lobbying, Sanders said. It presents the industry's view to government agencies on such issues as taxation, labeling and limits on advertising, and plans brewers' lobby efforts.

"We are always a popular target for taxation and regulation, particularly in the U.S. because of our attitude on alcohol," Sanders said.
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Title Annotation:Miller Brewing Co.
Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Date:Mar 12, 1990
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