Tuesday, August 2, 2022

You Were Right; The Pappy Lottery Was Rigged

Reported on PennLive.com: Five PLCB executives were investigated by the State Ethics Commission for, let's not mince words, cheating on the PLCB's Pappy Van Winkle "lottery." 

Let's do a perp walk. 

  • Board member Michael Negra
  • Cliff McFarland, director of supply chain 
  • Tom Bowman, director of product selection
  • Bryan Kelleher, director of the bureau of business development for wholesale operations
  • Carl Jolly, a retail operations manager
All five of them were found to have participated in a scheme to snap up 'unclaimed' Pappy Van Winkle 12 Year Old bourbon (the "Lot B" bottling prized by the pros) and other allocated whiskeys. See, the PLCB would hold a lottery (which often led to website crashes, and was widely believed to be rigged, though no evidence of that has surfaced...yet) for PA residents to take a chance at buying one of the state's allocated bottles of various whiskey releases. After the results were announced, the winners would then be able to buy the bottles at the PLCB list price, which was, admittedly, often hundreds of dollars less than at private stores in other states. 

'Shopping' at the PLCB Executive Store

But amazingly, not every bottle would be claimed. For instance, the lottery cited in the PennLive article, the January 2020 lottery for the Lot B bottling, had over 17,000 entrants for 999 bottles, and 24 went unclaimed. The rules of the lottery said that those bottles would then be released for a "second-chance" lottery...but the PLCB decided not to do that, and instead the vultures at the top feasted on the remnants. 

Want more? The lottery allowed winning entrants to purchase a single bottle. Ha! Jolly, for instance, despite not having even entered the lottery (why would he? That's for us suckers), "bought three bottles of Pappy Van Winkle bourbon for $410 and separately a bottle of Weller 12-year Reserve Bourbon for $40." That was in one lottery. We're not told how many bottles in total 0were bought by these PLCB parasites

There is an aspect to this that is particularly hard to swallow. Their participation is not contested; they all did it, some of them multiple times. They didn't steal the bottles; they bought them, at list price, with their own money. There is apparently no credible evidence that they flipped the bottles to make money; Lot B, for example, is currently going for well over $1,000 in the so-called "secondary market." 

But because there was "insufficient clear and convincing evidence of a pecuniary benefit", the State Ethics Commission found that there was "no violation" of the state ethics code. That's bullshit. The whiskey wasn't theirs to buy, and even if they didn't sell it, they had that potential. That's like saying you're not guilty of theft because you stole a Van Gogh...and then just kept it. I mean, you didn't make any money on it, right? No harm, no foul, baby!

Despite that "innocence," the Ethics Commission's report says that they were each "ordered to fulfill his agreement to not purchase any items offered by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board outside of the process by which a Commonwealth resident may purchase such items." Don't the words "fulfill his agreement" sound like a deal was made? 

Of course a deal was made. And once again, the PLCB gets away with this crap. And what do we do? Nothing. That's what we do. Because the miserable PA Legislature has other things to do. Like making it harder to vote, and easier to frack.

Do you remember when the PLCB was the ONLY retail operation to shut down voluntarily in March of 2020? Absolutely closed for six weeks, and not only that, they boarded up the windows because they were afraid of us, that we rampaging drunks would loot their stores. 

Actual PLCB store, Wilkes-Barre, March 2020

Why are these guys still around? Will no one rid us of this troublesome agency?! 

Apparently not, because neither Shapiro's or Mastriano's campaign responded to me when I asked them about their positions on PLCB privatization. I'd remind you that I'm a nationally known whiskey writer, I've testified about these issues before the legislature; I'm not just a blogger howling in the night...but they didn't respond. 

Which leads me to believe that we're screwed. Shapiro is just another Democrat who will veto any privatization bill -- for reasons unclear -- and Mastriano apparently is either beholden to the religiously anti-booze or will be too busy fighting for freedom, whatever he thinks that means. 

But don't worry. These guys promised not to buy booze outside the normal channels again. Pinky swear

Looks like it's gonna be a long eight years.