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Costco burns up record $22 million to privatize liquor

Joel Goodman
Can Costco buy a win in the initiative battle over privatizing alcohol sales?

OLYMPIA, Wash. – The fight to privatize liquor sales in Washington just got a lot more expensive. Costco has dumped another $9 million into the Yes on Initiative 1183 campaign.

That brings the wholesale giant’s total spending to more than $22 million – a state record for a ballot measure.

In Washington initiative politics, $1 million checks from deep-pocketed interests are fairly common. But an $8.9 million single contribution? Now that's historic.

Eclipses other initiative battles

So is the fact Costco has now poured a total of $22.5 million into its battle to end state control of hard alcohol sales in Washington. It even eclipses what the American Beverage Association spent last year to repeal a soda pop tax.

"When you’re spending that kind of money they're doing polling, they've got consultants that are probably saying this is the amount of ad buy we've got to do if this thing's going to go over the top," says Todd Donovan, a political scientist and expert on initiatives at Western Washington University. "But they're seeing something that's making them think they gotta go big on this thing.”

Costco's financial opponent in this fight over liquor sales in Washington is the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America. It and other opponents of liquor privatization have raised nearly $12 million.

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