Business & Lobbying

Amid ban attempts, powdered-alcohol-maker turns to K Street

The manufacturer of powdered alcohol has hired its first K Street firm as part of an uphill battle for acceptance.

{mosads}Arizona-based Lipsmark, which makes the product, called Palcohol, brought on Federal Advocates Inc., a Virginia lobby firm, according to newly filed disclosure forms.

The fledgling product may need all the help it can get.

Federal officials in March paved the way for the freeze-dried booze to hit the market this year, but congressional lawmakers and state legislators are threatening to be the product’s ultimate buzzkill.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Monday renewed a push to ban Palcohol before it reaches store shelves, announcing an amendment to legislation that would outlaw the “production, sale, distribution or possession of powdered alcohol.”

“Underage alcohol abuse is already an epidemic with tragic consequences — a product like Palcohol would just exacerbate that scourge, which is why we must stop it,” Schumer said in a statement. “Support for this new amendment is the only way to make it illegal to produce or sell this Kool-Aid for underage binge drinking.”

The registration forms for Lipsmark’s new lobbyists were filed the day after Schumer announced his amendment. Forms say the firm will be working on issues related to the “legal status of powdered alcohol (production, sale, distribution and possession).”

“When alcohol is a powdered, it can be used so much more dangerously than if it was a liquid,” Schumer said, according to a report by the CBS affiliate in New York. “And worst of all is that a young person can put a whole bunch of shots in one glass of water with disastrous results.”

Federal Advocates Inc., a small lobby firm run by father-and-son duo Sante and Michael Esposito, earned $930,000 in lobbying fees last year.

Other clients include the Association of American Railroads, the Independent Automobile Dealers Association and a slew of municipal interests, such as the cities of Pittsburgh and Antioch, Calif.

Six states already have passed legislation keeping Palcohol from consumers, including Louisiana, South Carolina, Utah, Alaska and Vermont. However, in April, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) vetoed a bill that would have made the product illegal.

“I have found that once legislators took the time to learn the truth about Palcohol vs. the untruths presented by critics who know nothing about the product, they recognize that banning Palcohol is not the answer,” the company said in a statement following the veto.

The 1-ounce packets, each containing the equivalent of one shot of alcohol, are slated to come in five flavors: vodka, rum, cosmopolitan, lemon drop and powderita, which the company says tastes like a margarita.

“People unfortunately use alcohol irresponsibly. But I don’t see any movement to ban liquid alcohol. You don’t ban something because a few irresponsible people use it improperly,” its creator, Mark Phillips, told USA Today

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