Wine Lobbyists Won’t Toast Donald Trump
The GOP frontrunner may have the best understanding of the wine industry in the presidential field—but that doesn’t mean he has its best interest at heart.
Donald Trump has boasted about the success of his Charlottesville winery, but the policies he has promoted on the campaign trail could cause his profits to wither on the vine.
And that’s precisely why Big Wine is dreading the prospect of a Trump presidency.
“He is exactly the polar opposite of what the [wine lobby]—and the country—need on immigration and trade,” a California-based wine lobbyist told The Daily Beast. “I mean, efforts [in Congress] are obviously stalled right now, but Donald Trump in the White House could very well set back progress immeasurably, of course.”
The wine industry despises Trump’s hardline positions on international trade and immigration, and a President Trump would be nothing short of hostile toward any renewed legislative movement on reform that they have spent years trying to coax through Congress.
“Do not get me started on this, man,” another wine lobbyist tersely stated.
WineAmerica, the national association of American wineries, holds immigration reform as one of its core policy positions. The association joined the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform that was formed in 2001, and devoted a lot of time and energy advocating for the ill-fated “Gang of Eight” bill.
The wine industry relies heavily on cheap agricultural labor, including seasonal workers who arrive via guest-worker programs and visas—the kinds of programs that Trump says he hates even as he takes advantage of them as a businessman.
The Wine Institute, a political-advocacy organization for all things wine, would see little worth liking in a Trump administration.
The group is run by Bobby Koch, a Democratic donor who happens to be the brother-in-law of Jeb Bush, one of Trump’s top political enemies and former 2016 rival. The Institute’s political action committee has thrown money at a bipartisan array of politicians and PACs this cycle, including Jeb Bush, Hillary Clinton, and the pro-Jeb Right To Rise PAC. They supported the Trans-Pacific Partnership (a trade agreement that Trump has relentlessly attacked), which the Institute believes will help increase U.S. wine exports and sales globally.
“We congratulate the [Obama] administration for its hard work and look forward to reviewing the details of the agreement and continuing to work with Congress and the Administration on the TPP,” Koch said in October.
Trump, for his part, has repeatedly slammed TPP as a “terrible deal” and “insanity,” and called out the lobbying outfits pushing it.
“The only people that are supporting it politically are people that are controlled by the lobbyists for certain companies that want this to happen because it’s to their advantage, not to the country’s advantage,” the real-estate mogul told Breitbart News in November.
Given his positions, even Trump’s own winery could suffer under his administration. For example Trump Winery is set to house at least 19 immigrant workers this year (PDF).
It’s an odd approach for a business that he has bragged about since buying the property for $6.2 million in April 2011.
During a bizarre press conference in March that sounded more like an infomercial, the Republican frontrunner touted Trump Winery, stating that, “I own it 100 percent, no mortgage, no debt.” (Trump Winery’s website, however, explicitly states that “Trump Winery is a registered trade name of Eric Trump Wine Manufacturing LLC, which is not owned, managed or affiliated with Donald J. Trump, The Trump Organization or any of their affiliates.”)
“We’re very proud of of it,” Trump added. “We make the finest wine, as good a wine as you can get anywhere in the world.” Trump also recently claimed that he owns “the largest winery on the East Coast,” an assertion that left many in the wine industry scratching their heads.
“That’s not correct,” WineAmerica spokesman Michael Kaiser said at the time. And depending on how you measure it, Trump Winery is not even the largest one in Virginia.
Regardless, the free publicity it has received during this campaign has given a boost to the Trump family’s wine business.
“Business overall has been up, and the percentage increase is anywhere from 50 percent to over 1000 percent, depending on which channel,” Kerry Woolard, the Trump Winery manager told The Washington Free Beacon. “Since the [March 1] Super Tuesday event, I would say it’s bumped up again, particularly online sales.”
The winery is now also selling the Trump campaign’s “Make America Great Again” hats, in three different colors. And it might be the only winery in America that considers Trump’s presidential bid as good for business.