WASHINGTON -- To show that anything is possible in Washington, beer and wine wholesalers hosted a $1,000-a-person breakfast fund-raiser Wednesday for Sen. Orrin Hatch.
Yes, that would be the same Hatch who is a former LDS bishop and high-profile hymn writer, who has never taken a drink of alcohol in his life and who vehemently urges others to abstain.But the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America and the National Beer Wholesalers Association wanted to show gratitude to the Utah Republican for legislation on which they joined forces.
They and Hatch pushed a ban on direct sales to consumers of beer and wine via the mail from Internet orders, which bypassed normal state alcohol regulation and liquor store systems.
"We were able to attach it to the juvenile justice bill in the Senate," Hatch said. "It's one of the few times, I suppose, that we will be able to work together for the interests of the country."
Hatch said he pushed that bill because he wants to prevent sales to underage youth, who he said could too easily obtain wine and beer through Internet sales.
The beer and wine wholesalers pushed it because they themselves must go through state regulators to sell their products and were upset that some Internet competitors were bypassing it.
"There will be people there (at the fund-raiser) besides them. There will be folks from the National Association of Broadcasters, General Dynamics, Union Pacific" and numerous other defense and financial groups, Hatch said.
"But I have to say, the beer and wine wholesalers are hosting it. And I'm happy to have them do it," he said just before the fund-raiser at the expensive Monocle Restaurant on Capitol Hill.
Still, the situation was odd enough that it attracted a good-sized story in the Washington Post under the headline, "A Dry Toast, Of Sorts, to a Teetotaler." Hatch also abstains from tea and coffee as a tenet of his religion.
Hatch has accepted small amounts of money through the years from groups that promote or sell alcohol and tobacco dating back to 1976 when he first ran for office in an against-the-odds bid against then-incumbent Sen. Ted Moss, D-Utah.
"Joseph Coors (of Coors Beer) sent me a check for $1,000. I thought, I can't take that. So I called him and said, 'Mr. Coors, I'm a Mormon, and I don't think I can help you with any of the alcohol industry's projects," Hatch recalled.
"He said, 'I didn't send you that to help with the beer industry. I sent it to you because you are a great conservative.' " Hatch said he then decided to keep it, "because I was so poor in that campaign that $1,000 was everything."
But Hatch was shaken by jabs that Coors was running his campaign.
That was until Hatch visited steel workers at Geneva Steel -- who liked the fact that he dealt with Coors. "They were yelling, 'Yea Coors and Yea Hatch,' " he said.
Hatch said, "I learned that as long as people don't expect favors, it's all right to let them donate."
Hatch said many people related with the alcohol industry have given money to him -- even though he usually fights them on alcohol issues -- "because they have the same small business and general concerns as everyone else, and they support me in those areas."