Meet the money behind the effort to keep Alabama in the liquor retail business


“If you thought this bill was not going anywhere; that it would die or get killed like it always has, you need to think again!”

Bob Leavell is concerned that a measure to close Alabama’s state-run liquor stores might gain traction. The former Alcoholic Beverage Control Board  administrator under Govs. Folsom and James now happens to lease property to the state to facilitate its retail liquor operations.

He’d like for things to continue uninterrupted. After all, the State of Alabama is a heck of a reliable tenant. Property owners who lease to the state have a good gig…one worth protecting.

We’ve seen all the recent arguments from the current ABC administrator, ABC employees, the state employees union, shadowy social media outlets and even “Alabama’s Moral Compass,” ALCAP, telling us why we need to keep the ABC in the retail liquor business.

Whether you agree with their “government-control-is-better” narratives or not, they aren’t the most powerful force shaping the issue.

Monied special interests drive most political action in Alabama. Keeping the state in the liquor business is no exception.

“It benefits every person that owns an ABC store to see this legislation killed,” writes Leavell in his April 27 letter.

Letter to ABC Lessors re SB115

In fact, neither “alcohol” nor “liquor” is even mentioned in Leavell’s letter sent to around 170 similarly situated lessors.

Efforts to move the State of Alabama out of the liquor distribution business have constantly met bipartisan opposition, even from those regularly campaigning as champions of “limited government.”

The first effort this session failed to gain traction when four Republicans joined Democrats in opposing a bill that would effectively close ABC’s retail liquor operations. The sponsor of the legislation, Sen. Arthur Orr, was subsequently able to pass the legislation by a voice vote under a promise to make changes before the entire Senate.

Even when a number of senators, including all the Democrats, switched their votes to support the measure on the second attempt, Republican Sens. Jabo Waggoner and Clyde Chambliss maintained their opposition.

Leavell asks lessors to do two things: Send $2,500 each to pay for a lobbying firm, Tom Coker & Assoc., and contact their respective senators.

In case you were curious, many of the folks facilitating those conversations and lobbying are not exactly political lightweights in Alabama. Tom Coker served as an aide to U.S. Sens. Howell Heflin and Jim Allen. He lists Alabama Power Co. and the Alabama Hospital Association among his many clients.



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