Recently, Vice published a story about a purported effort by Amazon to use the R Street Institute (RSI) to lobby “secretly” for changes to alcohol laws. This kind of activity is illegal, and RSI comprehensively denies the claims and implications in this story.

The story relied on an anonymously-sourced internal Amazon document. The document did not originate with RSI, nor was RSI aware of its existence prior to the story’s publication. 

As a 501(c)3 organization, the R Street Institute’s primary purpose is to conduct nonpartisan research and policy analysis for educational purposes. To underscore the independence of our research, it is important to note that none of the work products mentioned in the recent story were completed by RSI. The anonymously sourced document underlying the story suggests that RSI would produce “[w]hite papers and articles showing the state/local revenue impact of alcohol delivery.” While our scholars have occasionally referenced the potential revenue implications of various alcohol reforms–as have many other industry commentators–we have never produced any research on the topic. 

Likewise, the document suggests RSI would “facilitate allied activities” among a coalition of large corporations to “drive” a three-tier modernization plan in a way that would “shield” and “provid[e] cover” for these entities. RSI has long voiced concerns with the three-tier system of alcohol distribution, but to be clear, our team has never coordinated or facilitated any coalitions on behalf of third parties on this topic, nor provided “cover” or acted as a “shield” for any coalitions or donors.

As our president has often said, we will talk with, or work with, almost anyone who does not espouse hate or violence, because we are driven to find real solutions to pressing policy issues that other groups often neglect, or do not dedicate resources to. 

However, we speak for ourselves, and our work speaks for itself. Not everyone who works with us agrees with our research or proposed solutions. But that has not stopped us from publishing guest commentary from prominent alcohol writers and experts, as well as in-house policy work from a host of scholars. We are proud of this work and for more than six years, our focus in this area has been simple and unchanging: “We support market-oriented policy solutions that enhance free enterprise, consumer choice and public well-being.”  

Our resident senior fellow in this issue area, Jarrett Dieterle, has been a leading authority on alcohol policy for years; and his extensive work includes the book Give Me Liberty and Give Me a Drink! as well as The Right to Drink podcast–both of which were finalists for the prestigious Tales of the Cocktail “Spirited Awards.” We stand by his research, as well as the work of past RSI scholars in this space, who are similarly notable experts and authors in the field. 

The R Street Institute could not be successful without the freedom to engage in public policy where, and when, we think we will have the most impact. All think tanks today grapple with the challenge of balancing fundraising needs with research independence. That’s why we have developed processes across our organization to protect our autonomy and ensure our long-term sustainability. It is our research independence that enables us to build broad consensus across the political spectrum and continue developing limited government, pro-market public policy solutions.