INDIANAPOLIS – There are no lobbyists on the newly created Alcohol Code Revision Commission. No one with an ownership interest in an alcohol license. And providing gifts or entertainment for the members is banned.
Those are the rules for the new panel charged with making recommendations for changing Indiana's Prohibition-era retail rules on alcohol sales.
But one major thing is still allowed – campaign contributions. The eight legislative members of the panel can continue to accept donations from all sides of the fight. And some of them have long histories of being funded by alcohol interests.
The lawmakers on the commission have collected at least $200,000 from all sides of the alcohol industry. The Journal Gazette tally is a minimum, based on contributions from major trade groups and key interested parties. Donations from individual businesses and owners affected by alcohol law might not be captured in the amount.
Much of the money was given in recent years, but some contributions are more than a decade old.
“They have made their voices heard loudly through the years by writing big checks,” said Julia Vaughn, policy director for the government accountability group Common Cause Indiana. “It would be difficult to find any legislator who hasn't taken some money from the alcohol lobby.”