Democrats in Legislature Introduce Bill To Prohibit Costco From Selling Liquor Under Law Company Helped Pass

A trio of Democrats in the Washington State Legislature have introduced a bill that appears to be designed to strip Costco of the legal right to sell liquor under voter-approved Initiative 1183 when the new state law privatizing liquor sales and distribution is fully implemented in early summer of this year.

On Thursday, State Reps. Sam Hunt (D-22), Sherry Appleton (D-Poulsbo), and John McCoy (D-Tulalip) sponsored House Bill 2426 under the title “Prohibiting the issuance of spirits retail licenses to certain membership organizations.”

What companies would be prohibited from selling liquor under the state’s new privatized system, enacted by voters by nearly an 18-point margin of approval? At this early stage, what constitutes a “membership organization” is not clearly defined in the bill, but there are enough breadcrumbs in the current text to make an educated guess. From HB 2426:

[B]uying in bulk and in supersized packaging, a pattern of activity that is promoted and encouraged by membership organizations, increases abusive consumption. In order to protect the public interest, advance public safety, and prevent abusive consumption of spirits, the Washington state liquor control board is explicitly prohibited from issuing spirits retail licenses to certain membership organizations.

The only way legislators could have been any more coy in painting the target of the bill would have been to define membership organizations to include all places selling a hot dog and soda combo for an absurdly low price.

Costco is the largest membership organization in Washington State that would qualify to sell liquor under 1183. Costco also provided a record-breaking amount of money to the campaign to pass the initiative; wine and spirits wholesalers, alcohol distributors, and an assortment of public and private-sector unions combined to finance the unsuccessful campaign to defeat the measure.

The tell-tale ignorance of market economics that leads to the bill’s inference that efficient purchasing amounts to “abusive consumption” and the drafters’ confusion about the incentives motivating consumers provide clues to HB 2426’s point of inspiration. (Individual buyers are encouraged by price – not the opportunity for wanton binge behavior – to buy in bulk.)

Are those ideologically-loaded hacks at Costco’s business model the latest visible edge of an axe the losing side of the 1183 debate is swinging with vehement spite and malicious intent? Not so surprising, the money trails leading to the campaign against 1183 and the campaign funds of HB 2426’s sponsors share a large list of common contributors. According to reports filed with the State Public Disclosure Commission for election cycles between 2000 and 2010, many of the contributors to Protect Our Communities – the group who fought a losing battle to defeat 1183 – also show up on PDC records for Hunt, McCoy, and Appleton.

During last year’s battle over 1183, Protect Our Communities received $820,000 from the Washington Beer and Wine Wholesalers to try and stop liquor privatization and the disruption of a comfortable single-buyer marketplace. Since 2000, McCoy has received $1,700 from the WBWW; Hunt took $2,470 from the group.

The United Food and Commercial Workers union gave $619,000 to the No on 1183 campaign, and in the last 10 years the UFCW has given $2,475 to Hunt and $1,300 to McCoy.

Although a junior investor in the effort to defeat 1183, the Teamsters – who, along with the UFCW, also filed a lawsuit last December challenging 1183’s constitutionality – have also been generous in supporting the legislators pushing HB 2426 forward. Since 2000, Teamsters organizations have dropped $2,975 into McCoy’s hands, gave $5,475 to Hunt, and Appleton raked in $6,500 of Teamsters money.

Last year, the State Office of Financial Management estimated conservatively that 1183 would create at least $400 million in additional revenue for state and local governments during the first six years of implementation.



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  1. Carina

    I don’t think this is about Democrats trying to “control” the public and deciding the average person can’t be trusted to determine how to drink responsibly. This seems to me to be more about SENDING A MESSAGE TO BIG CORPORATIONS, like Costco, TO STOP MESSING AROUND WITH POLITICS and throwing money around to influence and change laws to suit their own interest. Costco’s motivation in spending millions on the campaign to get this bill passed was obviously purely out of a desire to make money off of the hard liquor they would then be able to sell at their stores. Several years ago my friend had struggled to find work, but finally managed to get a job and climb the ladder into a position with health insurance and a reasonable salary as manager of a state liquor store. However, this store will now be closing and my friend and all her employees will soon find themselves unemployed “thanks” to this legislation. I think this proposed bill to not allow Costco-type stores to sell hard liquor is just sort of like if those companies that recently lobbied to get Congress to tweak newly passed school health regulations to count “pizza as a vegetable” were then countered with a bill that said pizza will be counted as a vegetable, but all the ingredients and tomatoes for those pizzas must come from companies that did NOT give money to have the legislation passed.

  2. Ken

    This is Bullshit, we voted, I need to as how much the the liquor distributors pay you 3 to do this, stop lining your pockets with money and freakin listen to us we are tired of this Bullshit!!!!!!

  3. David L

    From the research that I did on HB2426 it appears that Representative Tim Ormsby is one of the backers. We must email and call these representatives to voice our dismay over their obvious attack on Costco as well as the will of the voters. Their gross use of power in office is an emabarrassment to the citizens of the State of Washington, both Democrats and Republicans. This is such an obvious bullying. This is the first time I have ever spoken out on government action but it is a long time coming and I am tired of being viewed as incompetent and unable to take care of myself by some of these politicians. It is time to standup for what is right and this is NOT right!

  4. David

    Although I find it hard to believe that some of our democratic legislators would stoop to this level, I really shouldn’t be surprised. After all, it does seem to be the democrats that believe we all need to have nannies to look after and direct our every action and decision. Unfortunately, we are not just seeing this on a statewide level, but across our nation as well. WAKE UP, AMERICA! If you don’t stand up for your rights very soon, you won’t have to worry about it any more, because the nanny state will insure that they remove those rights from you…for your own protection and best interests, of course!

  5. Pb

    I am so glad wehave demos. to protect us from ourselves. What a crock.

  6. Brandon

    I’m too stupid to know what is best for me. Democratic members of the legislature, HELP ME! Pass laws to save me from myself!

    • Tina

      That is what society is coming to, and it’s sickening! Our founding fathers would be disgusted by what’s happened to politics and people’s rights over the years.

  7. Dick Pierson

    Don’t they have a budget crisis to talk about and fix this year ? What the heck are they waisting time with this for ? People, we have elected officials that have an agenda and the’re going to push it. Work on the problem at hand and set your private agenda aside just this one time, there are people sstarving and dying on our streets because they can’t afford medical help or are not being protected by our police, that we can’t afford ! What the h%$# is going on in Olympia ??

  8. D. Rafael

    Reply after I contacted Rep Appleton:

    Please know that Rep. Appleton has withdrawn her support for this legislation. It was a mistake and she knows it.

    Donna J. Bezon
    Senior Legislative Assistant to
    Rep. Sherry Appleton, 23LD
    House of Representatives
    Washington State Legislature

  9. What a sad comment on the buying and selling of politics in this state. What happened to “democracy by the people, for the people”?

  10. RayeHawk

    Lemme see . . . so we won’t be able to buy booze at Costco, Sam’s Club, Albertson’s, Safeway, the Krogers (QFC, Freddy) and PCC?

    They all have “membership clubs”. What does that leave, 7-11, Whole Foods and am/pm?

  11. Pam

    REALLY?!?! Costco encourages people to buy in bulk? Last I checked my Costco membership was an option which has saved my family a ton of $$$ in groceries every month. When I was at Costco last week there is the option of purchase just 1 bottle of wine and not a whole case.
    Do they really believe not allowing Costco to sell liquor is prevent abusive consumption? WLCB stores do not limit the number of bottles purchased in a visit nor the number of visit during a day or week.
    Maybe instead of attacking Legislation the PEOPLE of the State of Washington approved, they need to figure out how to save the educational budget.

  12. D. Rafael

    Please contact your Senator and Representatives. Time to end the Democrat’s “smarter than thou” attitude.

  13. Kevin

    Lindsey, I always thought that there wasn’t much difference in IQ points between Repub’s or Dem’s but your reply is making me question that! You’ve missed the point…notice I said the will of the PEOPLE!!! ALL people…Republicans AND DEMOCRATS that voted for this bill. And what is “2” in your reply? If you would bother to read the above article, it tells us there are THREE…3…Dems trying to prohibit this. Next time know what you’re talking about and READ.

  14. Mike Campberll

    What I don’t like is the implementation by the WLQ Board that is closing my local wine store…….becasue the new law to…..Bullsh_t

  15. John Manny

    I learn each and every day why I’m not a Democrat, Let the people cast the vote for what they want and get the hell out of the way.

  16. Pammy

    Perhaps those who support this legislation should be prohibited from shopping at certain membership associations. We certainly want to remove the possiblity that they might partake in abusive consumption something like gasoline or hotdogs and soda pop.

  17. Steve J.

    These politicians are morons. Being a democrat I am embarrassed, they need to be going after issues that matter, not picking on Costco.

  18. Kevin

    I abhor Washington state democrats even more now…never mind the will of the people! How anyone can vote democrat anymore is beyond me…you guys need your head examined. Oh my god!!!

    • Lindsey

      Kevin get off your high horse… If you actually believe this bill was not passed with at least half of the democrat vote you are mistaken… This bill is supported by many many democrats. It is a well known fact that WA state has more democrats then repubs… So don’t even go there with your BS and blame all democrats because of only TWO…… This bill would have NEVER passed if it wasn’t for us democrats… So shut it!

  19. Marc M

    If they can’t win by vote they will cheat.

    Washington voters aren’t capable of deciding how much of anything we should buy.

    • Kevin Habener

      You took some words right out of my mouth, especially in your first sentence. It’s like they want to penalize us voters, at least those of us who voted to pass it, for doing it. I’ve voted in favor of all of Tim Eyeman’s initiatives as well. And, those of his that got voted in, same thing. And then, it’s like they had to get brought out again (but with some different wording, but to re-inforce the 1st one), and then voted in again just to get the message to our legislators. It just never stops. I know why I’ve started voting Libertarian (pro free market), at least to make a point.

  20. Pmc

    Where’s the love? Don’t they know how much the CEO of Costco gives to the democrats yearly?

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