Karl Strauss Brewery Mixes Dark Beer With Dark Money

Shortly before the recent multi-billion dollar election circus wrapped up, the San Diego Reader reported that Karl Strauss Brewing Company was a major donor to a Republican-supporting political action committee called the San Diego Restaurant and Beverage Political Action Committee.

Recently on Twitter, Karl Strauss denied any political donations, stating their “beer donations are committed to non-profits that support arts, music, and the environment.”  Karl Strauss went on to claim they “brew beer and leave politics to the politicians,” that the Reader “article was referring to contributions made by the CRA (California Restaurant Association),” and how “they choose to use them is up to their discretion.”  Lastly, Karl Strauss admonished, “you’ll have to take your issue up with the CRA.”

A bit stunned by the direct contradiction between the Reader article and Karl Strauss’ claims, I decided to investigate.  The Reader posted the campaign finance disclosure form that supported its article, which indeed lists Karl Strauss as donating $13,000 to the PAC.  The disclosure states the PAC is “sponsored by the California Restaurant Association.”

I contacted the telephone number for the PAC on the disclosure form, and was greeted by April Boling, the C.P.A. that verified the disclosure under penalty of perjury.  I asked Ms. Boling whether she stood by the form in light of Karl Strauss’ denial, a question she called “silly” before saying yes.  According to Ms. Boling, the California Restaurant Association was required to be listed on the disclosure by law because more than 80% of the donors are members of that organization.

So, according to the form and the treasurer and accountant who signed it under penalty of perjury, Karl Strauss did in fact donate $13,000 to a political action committee supporting Republican candidates.  I inquired directly with Karl Strauss’ PR contact Melody Daversa.  She continued to claim that Karl Strauss is a member of trade organizations that require dues, and some of those dues are spent on PACs.  When I inquired one more time for a direct response as to whether Karl Strauss donates directly to any PACs, she admitted they do but claimed the PAC is bi-partisan.

The disclosure form in question was for a three week period before the biggest election in US history.  So, to whom did this “bi-partisan” PAC contribute Karl Strauss’ money during this important period?  It gave $25,000 to The Lincoln Club of San Diego and $5,000 to the human trafficking ballot proposition battle.  Based on Karl Strauss’ claims that it only supports “arts, music, and the environment,” and that the PAC is “bipartisan” you would expect The Lincoln Club to be some sort of moderate to progressive, non-controversial organization.

Here are the federal and state candidates who The Lincoln Club of San Diego endorsed and supported in the 2012 general election: Elizabeth Emken (R), Darrell Issa (R), Duncan Hunter (R), Brian Bilbray (R), George Plescia (R), Brian Jones (R), Diane Harkey (R), Marie Waldron (R), Rocky Chavez (R), Brian Maienschein (R), and Mary England (R).  That’s eleven Republican endorsements and no endorsements for Democrats or any other parties.  Locally, they endorsed Republican Carl DeMaio for mayor.  Bipartisan?

Well, perhaps at least Karl Strauss’ credibility could be saved if these candidates really did have a dedication to “arts, music, and the environment” considering Karl Strauss had originally claimed its donations went to these causes.  I checked on Duncan Hunter and found this intriguing claim by Congressman Hunter regarding climate change:

Nobody really knows the cause. The earth cools, the earth warms…It could be caused by carbon dioxide or methane. Maybe we should kill the cows to stop the methane, or stop breathing to stop the CO2…Thousands of people die every year of cold, so if we had global warming it would save lives…We ought to look out for people. The earth can take care of itself.

So much for the pro-environment claim, unless Karl Strauss believes environmentalism means leaving our planet to fend for itself.

It should go without saying there is nothing wrong with Karl Strauss being political and they may indeed make a fine dark beer (I offer no opinion), but it’s the darkening of the money and denial of the truth that is troubling.  They clearly want to present themselves as beer drinking neutrals in favor of things like art, music, and the environment.  But actions speak much louder than words, and those actions speak even louder when more words are used to obfuscate truth.  Karl Strauss would be better served sticking with making dark beer, and either leaving the dark political money racket altogether, or being more forthright about it.


Poem: To My Friend Whose Dad Is Dying

To My Friend Whose Dad Is Dying
Some sad news is what you said
In the heading of an email
My dad may soon be dead
Hit me like a nine inch nail
A beard and a mystery
Is all I can remember
Moving in and out
With barely a whisper
And now the thought occurs in my head
That soon a new face will turn red
As our children relay to a friend
That their own Dad will soon be dead
So what I do with this thought
Is express and create
I write this poem for you
To create before its too late

Coachella 2012 – Lotus Flowers Bloom Part 1

Approximately two years ago, my family and I survived a 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Mexico standing just 2-3 miles from the epicenter. The world cracked open beneath our feet and mountains shook loose in the distance both literally and figuratively, but it was not until this last week’s post-Coachella flood of emotion and understanding that I began to understand the “magnitude” of that event. It began an anxiety filled process for me that included my wife’s job and career loss in a horrible manner, business struggles, foreclosure, relocation, and a massive lifestyle change. Some sort of tipping point was reached while standing in a campground shower line on the morning of the third straight day of 100+ degree temperatures and 12+ hours of loud, live music. The morning after Radiohead. Something inside myself changed and almost exactly one week to the hour later I write this to fulfill my promise to Ian, the young man I met in the campground shower line. I write this to testify, and I will continue to do so.

I will save the writing about the earthquake we survived for another day. The relevance of that day actually begins after we had returned home safely and were beginning to try to get back to a normal routine a couple days later. For me, that routine included heading over to our local sports bar for a couple beers and my wife dropping me off so driving would not be a problem if I ended up having more than a couple. As I was getting ready to leave the car, I broke out in a sweat and felt a rush of what I now recognize as “anxiety.” Buddhists would refer to it as “Dukkha” (“suffering”) and existentialists would refer to it as “existential angst.” Modern American psychiatrists would refer to it as “normal type stuff” and prescribe a profit-making pill, but I digress. My wife said “you just have some separation anxiety after the earthquake, I have it too.” We both figured it would pass quickly. It did not.

It was certainly still with me strongly as my daughter and I sat in the grass awaiting the beginning of Bon Iver‘s set on Saturday night, both excited to hear this beautiful music we only very recently began falling into love with and plotting our Radiohead strategy considering our extremely fatigued bodies but strong desire to be in a good viewing/listening spot. The hottest day in Coachella history, checking in at 107 degrees, began with us walking in the gates around 11am and then plotting the rest of our day to both enjoy as much good music as possible but also reach Radiohead’s set at 11:05 p.m. without our bodies and/or spirit completely breaking down.

Suddenly, my daughter turned to me in a panic and said, “Dad, someone has your phone!” She had received a text message from someone who had my phone letting me know they were holding it for me. We immediately realized I left it on a picnic bench and I began tearing through the crowd toward the location I had left the phone while furiously trying to text and call to no avail. The usual emotions that most of us feel in modern society came rushing in: “why isn’t she checking her phone?” and “of course this had to happen on the night of Radiohead” and “this is going to ruin Alexa’s whole night.” In other words, I was busily converting my mistake into a complex web of motive and action all designed in my own head to somehow personally affront me and make life difficult.

As we arrived at the bench, there was a group of young people milling about the table, apparently having a good time and chatting. I made it obvious I was looking for a phone, and one finally said to me, “are you the guy looking for the phone?” A young lady exclaimed, “Oh, I should have been checking my phone” and out comes my phone and she hands it over with a matter of fact smile. I thanked her profusely and awkwardly offered to give her $5. In hindsight, that was probably a very insulting amount but it’s just what came out. She declined any money and said she’d be happy with the karma. Alexa and I headed back to the main stage just in time to catch Bon Iver’s set, feeling relieved but a little shaken by the experience.

It was not until the next morning that the totality of the previous two days began to sink in. Something felt different after Radiohead on Saturday night. I am unable to sleep past daylight under any circumstances, so even just 3 hours after falling asleep, I was up on Sunday morning and contemplating many things. Suddenly, the events of the previous night relating to my phone came flooding in, and I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude toward this young woman and shame over not properly expressing that gratitude. I decided I would express my thanks one more time via text message, and the following message just sort of typed itself out:

Hey Brooke this is Paul the phone guy. I just wanted to thank u again for getting my phone to me. Seeing radiohead was hugely important to us and it could have been a soul crusher to be worried about my phone the whole time. I didn’t feel I properly thank you. You were our angel last night and we are very grateful. May your kindness come back to you many times over. Peace.

This is not the type of message I would normally send to a stranger. In my normal routines, I would have been thankful that she did what anyone ought to do and satisfied that I thanked her properly and moved on. She would not have been a “person” in my life, but a temporary object that might as well have been a robot, like a food server or a bank teller. Through no real conscious decision of my own that I could discern, however, I saw how damaging and futile that mindset is given just how bad the state of the world has become in relation to economic and environmental disasters. Mahatma Gandhi’s great admonition to “be the change you want to see in the world” suddenly hit home like a Patrick Carney drum beat on just about any song by The Black Keys.

It was with this mindset that I woke Alexa from her slumber and we headed over to the campground showers and had one of the most random and powerful conversations with a stranger that I have ever had. That discussion, the importance of Radiohead’s The King of Limbs, and some buddhist references to come as this series of reflections on Coachella 2012 will continue.