Tracking the Money Behind Beer Legislation, the $4.1 Million Question + Austin's Kirk Watson Now a Co-Sponsor of Carona's Bill

The Austin-based nonprofit group Texans for Public Justice must enjoy a cold beer at the end of each working day. They've been watching the package of beer-related bills at the state capital and on Thursday completed a thorough investigation into the money behind big beer. It's quite the read.

See also: - Senator John Carona Files Bill That Could Raise Beer Cost Across Texas

On Wednesday we reported on five bills currently in the Senate Business and Commerce Committee. Four of those bills, authored by Senator Kevin Eltife of Tyler, are essentially the result of years of work from craft brewers to help them expand their small, yet burgeoning industry. But the fifth bill (SB 639) would essentially negate all that work.

Texans for Public Justice research director Andrew Wheat authored the piece titled "Big Beer Drowns Small Competitors." When we spoke yesterday, he said that craft brewers had seemed to "cut a deal with some of the distributors and it's fairly unusual they lined things up so well," referring to Eltife's four-pack. "Everyone was on board, except the Wholesale Beer Distributors of Texas, who spreads millions into pockets," and happens to be the group behind Carona's legislation.

The article in "Lobby Watch" tracks the money associated with all five pieces of legislation. It's a must read. Wheat also noticed the Dallas senator's sometimes-odd behavior about SB 639. In one breath, he's distancing himself from the WBDT-backed legislation, claiming he just wanted to bring everyone to the table, then a minute later issuing threats on it.

Here's a good money quote from the piece (but check out entire thing -- it's not long):

Nobody at the recent hearing addressed the $4.1 million question: When all other affected parties have reached a deal, why are lawmakers coddling an intransigent trade group [The Wholesale Beer Distributors of Texas]? With troves of political dollars pushing backroom agendas, keep a watchful eye on Carona's deadline threat -- and how he executes it. If Monday passes without a deal and Carona slides craft beers onto the back burner, who would benefit -- other than the powerful Wholesale Beer Distributors of Texas?

In other news, on Wednesday Senator Kirk Watson of Austin signed on as co-author of SB 639. Senator Eddie Lucio of Brownsville is also a co-author.

It should also be noted that Watson and Lucio are also primary authors of the Eltife package (SB 515, SB 516, SB 517, SB 518). However, Carona is not a primary nor co-author for any of those.