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Lowman Henry
Lowman Henry

Lincoln Blog

by Lowman S. Henry

Manipulating the Liquor Debate

May 08, 2013

A prime example of how special interests manipulate the public policy debate in Harrisburg can be seen in recent developments surrounding efforts to privatize Pennsylvania's Soviet-style liquor store system.

State Senator Chuck McElhinney chairs a key senate committee that last week held hearings on liquor privatization. He has already stated he would not have voted for the House-passed version of the bill, waffles constantly on the issue, and his biggest political backer owns a beer distributorship.

Simply put, McElhinney stacked the committee hearing with privatization opponents. This resulted in the predictable barrage of "sky will fall" media coverage.

Then, along comes F~M College which the same day as the hearings are held goes into the field with a statewide poll that - again predictably - shows declining public support for liquor privatization.
This flies in the face of unbiased polling which shows overwhelming public support for ending the current state-run system.

Add these developments together and you get a case study in how Pennsylvania politics works. Special interests control key legislators; key legislators stack hearings; compliant media report on the hearings; pollsters then "survey" public opinion reinforcing the goals of the special interests.

Welcome folks to public policy 101 - Pennsylvania style.

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