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.