Beer distributors give nearly $400,000 to campaigns since '12; could reap benefits in beer bill

LAKELAND, Fla. - The distribution industry that would benefit from the controversial craft beer bill has forked over more than $370,000 to political campaigns in Florida since 2012, according to state documents.

Lakeland Senator Kelli Stargel, who sponsored the bill, received at least $6,000 of that money.

The controversial bill would legalize 64-ounce growlers, but there's a catch. Brewers who produce more than 2,000 kegs a year would need to sell their beer to a distributor and then buy it back at a higher price in order to sell it.

"If this bill were to pass, it's going to crush everything that we have slaved away for," said David Doble, co-owner of Tampa Bay Brewing Company.

Former senator Paula Dockery said the bill started out as a straight, solid bill.

"The bill has taken a turn for the worse," she said.

She said distributors and lawmakers have always had a close relationship in Tallahassee.

"It's kind of upsetting the apple cart. I think it's the change and the relationship than just the $500 check or whatever type of money that they're putting in people's campaign," she said.

Today in a phone interview, Stargel denied ever being influenced by campaign contributions.

She said other lawmakers are taking in a lot more money than herself.

Former House Majority Leader Jim Davis, whose Tampa law firm represents small brewers, calls the bill outrageous and upsetting.

"Typically the small guy is trying to get the opportunity to compete. In this situation, the big guy is trying to crush the small guy through a bill in the Florida Senate," he said.

Wednesday afternoon, Stargel said she will reconsider the 2,000 keg limit because her intentions were never to put small brewers out of business.

She said she does not discriminate when it comes to campaign contributions -- saying she accepts from any industries that want to give.

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