Senate Commerce Committee ranking member Ted Cruz, R-Texas, demanded that beer giant Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB) cooperate with the committee’s probe ‘regarding marketing alcohol to children.’
Cruz sent a letter late Tuesday night to AB InBev CEO Michel Doukeris with regard to what he called the company’s ‘failure to comply’ with the committee’s investigation into the Bud Light-Dylan Mulvaney controversy and called on him to direct AB ‘to cooperate with the investigation.’
‘On May 17, I wrote to Anheuser-Busch [North America] CEO Brendan Whitworth requesting documents and information regarding alarming allegations that Anheuser-Busch was marketing beer to [minors] through its partnership with social media influencer Dylan Mulvaney,’ Cruz wrote.
‘In response to my letter and at my request, the Code Compliance Review Board (‘CCRB’ or ‘the Board’) of the Beer Institute, an industry-funded lobbyist group representing U.S. brewers, also initiated a review of Anheuser-Busch’s compliance with the beer industry’s self-imposed Advertising and Marketing Code,’ Cruz continued.
The Texas Republican wrote that a ‘dissenting opinion in the CCRB review by retired Judge Paul Summers, the only attorney on the Board, corroborated’ his concerns and said Summers explained ‘Mulvaney appeals to persons below the legal drinking age with a ’special attractiveness.”
Cruz also said Summers wrote in his dissenting opinion that AB ‘knew all this, or the company’s ‘leadership should have known,’ and found that Anheuser-Busch ‘violated the Code as to advertising and marketing to people below the legal drinking age.’’
‘Meanwhile, nearly three months have passed since I requested documents from Mr. Whitworth in my capacity as Ranking Member of the Commerce Committee, and Anheuser-Busch has yet to provide the Committee with a single document,’ Cruz wrote.
‘Anheuser-Busch’s failure to cooperate and blatant disregard for U.S. congressional oversight is unacceptable. Given your broader responsibility for the Anheuser-Busch InBev portfolio of more than 500 brands, I trust you share my sincere concern with the possibility that Anheuser-Busch is marketing alcohol to children and will direct Anheuser-Busch to cooperate immediately with the Commerce Committee’s investigation.’
Cruz wrote that the ‘level of cooperation the Committee receives will bear significantly’ on the senator’s ‘assessment of whether this is part of a broader problem’ across AB’s brands ‘and whether changes to federal law are necessary to prohibit Anheuser-Busch InBev from marketing beer to children.’
The senator said his ‘May 17th requests were designed to obtain pertinent information about how Bud Light selects marketing partners and applies beer industry guidelines in the context of social media.’
‘There are currently no federal laws against advertising alcohol to minors, in part because of the beer industry’s professed commitment to self-regulation. As Ranking Member on the Commerce Committee, it is my duty to ensure that the Beer Institute’s private regulatory regime is working; if it is not, then our Committee may be forced to consider legislating to protect consumers, including impressionable children,’ he said.
‘Congress cannot effectively weigh the costs and benefits of legislation unless it understands how brewers are adapting to the digital sphere. Anheuser-Busch’s response to my request is thus key to the Committee’s consideration of such potential legislation,’ Cruz wrote.
The Texas Republican said his ‘May 17th letter was initially met with a roughly page-long unsigned response from Anheuser-Busch failing to provide any documents’ and that ‘counsel to Anheuser-Busch refused to provide any documents, citing the then-ongoing CCRB review’ in ‘subsequent communications with the Committee.’
‘This is nonsensical. A review conducted by an industry trade association is not a substitute for congressional oversight. The CCRB’s review was limited in scope — the CCRB does not ‘investigate marketing partnerships’ and did not demand supporting evidence from Anheuser-Busch,’ said Cruz.
‘As CCRB Member Judge Summers observed, Anheuser-Busch ‘failed to provide the reasonable documentation’ requested in my letter and complaint, even though I had issued ‘reasonable requests’ and responses from Anheuser-Busch would have been ‘elucidating,’’ he added.
Cruz wrote that AB ‘persists in refusing to provide the requested documents, revealing plainly that the ongoing CCRB review was never the real reason for Anheuser-Busch’s refusal to cooperate’ and that the company ‘is now suggesting that CCRB review was sufficient, and that it need not cooperate with congressional document requests.’
Senator Cruz letter to Anhe… by Houston Keene
‘This position is untenable; Anheuser-Busch does not decide whether and when a congressional investigation is concluded,’ Cruz wrote.
‘These dilatory tactics by your subsidiary must end. Otherwise, Anheuser-Busch InBev will leave Congress no choice but to infer this obstructionism is intended to shield inculpatory information from the Committee’s investigation,’ he also wrote.
A spokesperson for AB told Fox News Digital, ‘We are pleased that the Code Compliance Review Board (CCRB), an independent body, ruled that Anheuser-Busch was in compliance with the Beer Institute’s Advertising and Marketing Code.’
‘Anheuser-Busch takes its role in promoting responsible drinking very seriously, and our marketing is directed to adults of legal drinking age,’ the spokesperson said. ‘Since 1985, AB and its wholesaler partners have invested more than $1 billion in responsible drinking initiatives and community-based programs to prevent illegal underage drinking, impaired driving, and other harmful drinking behaviors.’
‘Anheuser-Busch, its 18,000 employees, and our 387 independent wholesaler partners take pride in our tradition of promoting responsible alcohol consumption,’ the spokesperson added.
The Beer Institute published a report on the Mulvaney controversy that included Cruz’s initial letter with Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., as well as AB’s response to the senators.
‘We complied with all provisions of the Beer Institute Advertising and Marketing Code,’ AB wrote. ‘This is true even under the general principles and guidelines that govern traditional advertising placements.’
‘At the time of the engagement, available data indicated that Mulvaney’s Instagram audience complied with the Beer Institute’s standards,’ the company continued. ‘In fact, Instagram as a platform predominantly consists of adults, with data indicating that almost 80% of users are over the age of 21.
‘Anheuser-Busch does not market its products to people below the legal drinking age. The Ad Code dates back almost 90 years and contains detailed procedures for the placement of advertising. We have long adhered to these rigorous requirements, and in each case, our marketing is directed to our consumers — adults of legal drinking age.’
The company wrote it is ‘proud’ of its ‘record of industry leadership and ongoing efforts to promote responsible drinking behaviors.
‘Together with our wholesaler partners, we employ more than 8,200 people across Texas and Tennessee, and the beer industry in total contributes more than $33 billion to your states’ economies,’ it added.