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Senators complain about unsigned flier

Several state senators on Thursday received a black-and-white, two-sided, apparently photocopied flier questioning the politics of a company that supports a change in Missouri’s franchising law.

And that flier left a bad taste in some senators’ attitudes — leading to a rare public dressing-down of lobbyists and a lobbying effort.

“I understand that, when we have issues in this General Assembly, they can become contentious,” state Sen. Jason Holsman, D-Kansas City, said. “Occasionally, we see a tactic sink to a level that is unacceptable.

“And what I have here is a dastardly personal and political attack on one of our great business owners in this state, Sue McCollum.”

McCollum is the owner and CEO of Major Brands, a St. Louis-headquartered “premium beverage distributor” which was started in St. Joseph in 1934, by McCollum’s late-husband’s grandfather.

The company describes itself as “Missouri’s highest-volume distributor of premium beer, wine, spirits and non-alcoholic beverages, and the only large distributor that remains Missouri owned.”

It has offices in five cities, including Columbia, employs more than 700 people and serves an estimated 10,000 retail customers.

The firm backs a proposed law that would change the state’s current franchising law, by allowing some beverage “suppliers” to terminate — or refuse to continue — the terms of a franchise with a wholesaler, without needing a “good cause” as current law requires.

The proposed law also would require state courts, when hearing future disputes, to rely on the legal reasoning of two cases decided in the state courts (in 1978 and 1992), and reject the legal analysis and ruling of a 2011 federal court case.

The flier questions McCollum’s state and federal campaign contributions over the years, noting she “is a prolific Democrat contributor, having held fundraisers for both President Obama and President Clinton” while also giving money to other campaigns, including U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, Gov. Jay Nixon, and Attorney General Chris Koster.

“It is worth noting that McCollum has never personally contributed to a Republican candidate,” the unsigned flier proclaimed, adding: “Now, she is cozying up to Republicans through her lobbying team, pushing for passage of legislation which would bail out Major Brands and add millions of dollars to the company’s value by keeping suppliers from leaving, hurting consumers in the process by ending competition in the liquor industry.”

Holsman told his Senate colleagues: “Typically, the lobbying is above-board, based on the facts of the issues, and you do your best to present the evidence and hope that your side is persuasive.

“This attack is nothing more than an attempt to try to confuse the issue, by making it about something that it is not.”

State Sen. Mike Parson, R-Bolivar, who sponsors the Senate version of the proposed law, called the flier “politics at its worst.”

“First of all, I handled this piece of legislation because I believe in that piece of legislation,” Parson said. “I believe in the company I went to see, and the people I met. ...

“I didn’t handle that bill because of who she contributed to. I didn’t know who she contributed to — and I don’t care.

“I handled the bill because I thought it was the right thing to do!”

Parson then said he was trying to “be careful with what I say ... but I’d like to tell them what kind of a ‘chicken-blank’ person they are, to do this kind of stuff.”

Holsman, Parson and Maria Chappelle Nadal, D-University City, all agreed the franchising issue is complicated, with emotions running high.

But, Holsman noted: “This (flier) is just an insidious, clandestine attempt to undermine and defame a good business owner. We talk about creating jobs in the General Assembly (and) make it a number-one priority.

“This woman is doing it (creating jobs) and the lobbyists ... attack her for trying to protect the jobs she has created and the business she has built.”

Chappelle Nadal said when she finds out who circulated the flier, they no longer will be welcome in her office.

“It’s cheap,” she said of the flier. “It’s unacceptable.

“It’s unforgivable.”

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