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 FM 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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