Waiting for the new Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board booze boss to make a monopolistic menu of Chairman's Selection? Well there's a new sommelier in town and he's found a great new whine - it's called "Probe," and it's a full-bodied investigation coming to a government agency near you!
According to a Pittsburgh-Tribune Review investigative report, PLCB Chairman Skip Brion has launched an internal investigation into how and why the agency used tax dollars to brand, buy and market eight highly controversial, in-house brands of wine and spirits and 35 total products that now compete against private industry. This joins an external investigation into ethics violations by the Viceroys of Vine.
Now known as "Vinogate," the chairman says he was never told about the government brands until four months into his term. He further adds he was never briefed on what he was voting for in July when he approved a new box wine label called Vinestone, which hit stores last week.
As it turns out, the Kings of Cabernet conveniently forgot to mention that this product is actually a taxpayer-funded concoction that muscles out shelf space against other similar products created by the free market.
Although he declined to elaborate on the probe, he did say he talked to officials in the wine and spirits industry about Vinogate. They were hardly pleased.
"(The industry) is hoping there are no merchant (private) labels. The industry, I think, would like to see their products on the shelves," Brion said. "I agree with some of the issues they bring forward that maybe we shouldn't be in the business of private labels, but we are."
You mean private enterprise doesn't like government unfairly competing against it using taxpayer dollars to brand, advertise and market under a monopoly? Say, it ain't so, Uncle Joe! For his part, the usually boastful and now internally and externally investigated PLCB CEO Joe Conti took a very new approach to the media queries into his decisions- no comment.
Hopefully, Chairman Brion, the General Assembly and Governor Corbett will have lots to say following the investigation. Until then, stay thirsty, my comrades.