Whenever President Obama says anything about the arrest of Harvard Prof. Henry Louis Gates in Cambridge last week, he gets himself in more trouble.
This time, it isn't about race. It's about beer - and lobbying.
Obama, Gates and the arresting officer, Cambridge Sgt. James Crowley, are expected to meet at the White House today for a cold one. But which one? Well, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said he believes Gates will have Red Stripe and Crowley prefers Blue Moon. Obama has been seen with Bud Light in the past.
But Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) says a Massachusetts kerfuffle needs to be settled over Massachusetts beer. "I would like to suggest you serve a beer from the largest American-owned brewing company; that being Sam Adams," he wrote in a letter to the president yesterday.
Sam Adams is owned by Boston Beer Co., a Massachusetts company which is currently lobbying for legislation that would allow it to maintain a tax benefit for craft brewers. The company is about to pass the brewing limit required to maintain the tax benefit, an issue Neal raises in the letter. The lawmaker says he'll file legislation that would allow the company to keep the tax break this week.
Boston Beer Co. hired Boston-based Christopher Greeley, managing director of the Nelson Mullins Public Strategies Group of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, on May 20, lobbying disclosure records show. Greeley could not be reached for comment today. The firm's second-quarter report shows it received $20,000 to lobby on tax issues.
Boston Beer Co. Chairman Jim Koch donated $2,400 to Neal in May, a week before the company hired Nelson Mullins. Michelle Sullivan, listed as doing public relations for the company, donated $250 on the same day. Those were the only political contributions for the 2010 election cycle listed for either, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
To his credit, Neal acknowledged that everyone may not wish to drink Sam Adams, and offered options - Northampton Brewery of Northampton, Pioneer Brewing of Sturbridge (both in his district) and others. And he's happy to help with Happy Hour. "As distribution is one of the highest hurdles craft brewers must contend with, I stand ready if you need any assistance obtaining any of these high-quality Masschusetts-owned and brewed beers," he concluded.