Recent data shared by the New York-based American Association of Wine Economists (AAWE) has sparked debate among members of the U.S. wine industry.
On June 4, the AAWE posted an infographic to its Twitter account, showing the total donations from U.S. wine industry professionals to the 2020 election campaigns of Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, and Joe Biden. “In terms of [dollars], the U.S. wine industry overwhelmingly supports Trump,” the AAWE wrote in the caption to the post.
One day later, the AAWE shared a separate post, highlighting the wine industry’s top 20 contributors to Trump’s campaign, PACs, and a hybrid PAC, between 2016 and 2020.
Many in the wine industry have since responded to the AAWE posts, praising the organization for highlighting the political allegiances of high-profile members of the industry. Others questioned whether the data did indeed show “overwhelming” support for President Trump, and called on the organization to share similar information on Democratic candidates.
Sourced from the Federal Election Commission, the first infographic revealed that Trump has received a total $606,131 in donations from the wine industry over the past four years. By comparison, Sanders’ total sat at $71,567, while Biden received just $10,000.
In terms of $$, the U.S. wine industry overwhelmingly supports Trump. Almost no support for Biden. Most and smallest contributions for Sanders. More details to come. pic.twitter.com/yXLYhAOaFi
— AAWE (@wineecon) June 4, 2020
The second post, detailing Trump’s top contributors, showed the president’s significantly larger total was made up of sizable donations from across the wine industry. The five largest donations came from winery owners, a distributor president, and a magazine publisher.
Topping the list of donations by some margin was New York-based Marvin Shanken, chairman of media company M. Shanken Communications, which publishes Wine Spectator, Whisky Advocate, and Cigar Aficionado, among others. In total, Shanken contributed $185,800 to Trump.
Rounding out the top five contributors were: John Jordan, California-based CEO of Jordan Winery ($75,600); Roger K. Bower, California-based proprietor of Westerly Wines ($55,400); Grace Evenstad, Oregon-based proprietor of Domaine Serene Vineyards & Winery ($50,000); and Sheldon Stein, Texas-based president of Southern Glazers Wine & Spirits ($25,400).
The U.S. wine industry overwhelmingly supports President Trump (see yesterday's post). The largest contributor by far is Wine Spectator's Marvin Shanken, followed by Jordan, Westerly, and Domaine Serene. Search all contribution data for all candidates at https://t.co/XPdtyjKByx pic.twitter.com/OXtefNdZ4q
— AAWE (@wineecon) June 5, 2020
Many in the industry were grateful to see these contributions highlighted. Responding to an AAWE Instagram post sharing the same data, San Francisco wine bar Resolute wrote: “Thanks for doing this. It’s important that we share values with people and businesses we support… and purchasing decisions will be impacted by this list.”
Matt Nocas, winemaker at California winery Stolpman Vineyards, echoed appreciation for the list, commenting: “Great info. Thanks.”
But not everyone was grateful for the list’s publication. Lisa Mattson, director of marketing and communications for Jordan Winery, responded to the Twitter post, denying that John Jordan had made financial contributions to Trump.
“Due to John Jordan’s Naval career, if the White House asks him for advice, it is recorded as a donation — that’s the law,” she wrote. “He stopped giving [money] to politicians years ago; now donates millions to fighting poverty.” Mattson later issued a longer Twitter statement reiterating these points in more detail, adding: “If you still choose to not support Jordan wines because the owner identifies with the Republican values of fiscal conservatism and small government, we respect your opinion.”
While the total donations to Trump were significantly larger than those to Sanders and Biden, many social media users said that doesn’t prove the entire wine industry is behind Trump. Some, including Pennsylvania-based spirits importer Raj Sabharwal, also called upon the AAWE to post donation data for all of the Democratic candidates.
Also available on the AAWE website, the organization has since posted separate lists to Twitter showing the top 20 contributors to the campaigns of Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, and Elizabeth Warren. (As for Joe Biden, he has only received two donations to date — both for $5,000 from Barbara Grasseschi, owner of California’s Puma Springs Vineyards.) Combined, the four Democratic candidates received just over $125,000.
VinePair reached out to Karl Storchmann, the AAWE’s executive director and vice president, for comment on the data.
Storchmann stands by his assertion that the U.S. wine industry “overwhelmingly” supports Trump, but purely from a financial standpoint. “What qualifies as support? I’m an economist — for me, you express your opinions with dollars,” he says.
Storchmann also recognizes that those donating to Trump’s campaigns (and those making the largest donations) are the heads of wine companies. He agrees that their views are not necessarily shared by their employees.
Responding to any perceived notions of ulterior motives for highlighting the donations, Storchmann says the AAWE simply aims to share “the data, statistics, and facts.”