Budweiser deal puts pressure on McCain campaign

A Belgian brewery’s recent attempt to buy out iconic American firm Anheuser-Busch is putting Cindy McCain in a politically difficult position.

Mrs. McCain, the wife of Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCain20 years after 9/11, US foreign policy still struggles for balance What the chaos in Afghanistan can remind us about the importance of protecting democracy at home 'The View' plans series of conservative women as temporary McCain replacements MORE (R-Ariz.), is chairwoman of a lucrative Anheuser-Busch distributorship in Arizona and is starting to attract political pressure on the possible deal.

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Since Belgian beer company InBev made an offer of $65 per share to St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch on June 11, a number of Missouri politicians have publicly opposed the deal, expressing their wish for Anheuser-Busch to remain an “American” company. Some have referenced Mrs. McCain’s stake in the company.

Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) told The Hill that he would encourage Mrs. McCain to keep in mind the company’s Missouri roots if he crosses paths with her on the campaign trail. “It’s something she should give careful consideration to,” he said.

Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-Mo.), whose congressional district includes Anheuser-Busch’s headquarters, is also against the deal. He would not address directly whether the McCains have a role to play on the issue, but added, “I would encourage the board of directors and the shareholders to really look at what would be lost in terms of the long-term benefits of the company.”

According to 2008 Senate financial disclosure documents, Mrs. McCain made between $50,000 and $100,000 from stock in Anheuser-Busch in the last year. The documents assess Mrs. McCain’s assets in the company as exceeding $1 million, though she is not required to specify exactly how much more because of disclosure exemptions for spouses and dependent children of officeholders. Shares of Anheuser-Busch have been up from $57.15 per share since the buyout was offered.

Mrs. McCain’s distributorship, Hensley & Company, was founded by her father, Jim Hensley, in 1955. She became chairwoman of the board of directors of the company in 2000 after her father’s death, and her role in the company is a large source of Sen. and Mrs. McCain’s personal wealth.

But as InBev’s offer becomes more politically radioactive, so too might the McCains’ stake in the deal. Sen. McCain has received $23,250 in political donations this cycle from Anheuser Busch employees, which is the most by any corporation, according to the Center for Responsive Politics’ Open Secrets website.

“They’re shareholders; they get a vote. If they vote in one direction, there are probably some shareholders who will follow their lead,” said Todd Malan, the president and CEO of the Organization for International Investment, of the McCains.

The McCain campaign declined to comment for this article. McCain’s general-election foe, Sen. Barack ObamaBarack Hussein Obama Obama backs Trudeau in Canadian election Former Sen. Heller to run for Nevada governor Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Senate Democrats ding Biden energy proposal MORE (D-Ill.), also did not comment.

{mospagebreak}Mrs. McCain has played a prominent role in her husband’s bid for the White House. In recent days, she has challenged Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaWe must mount an all-country response to help our Afghan allies Obamas, Bushes and Clintons joining new effort to help Afghan refugees Bidens, former presidents mark 9/11 anniversary MORE’s patriotism and criticized Burma’s military junta. On Thursday, she is scheduled to hold a campaign fundraiser for her husband in London.

Meanwhile, lawmakers of both parties from Missouri have met this past week with InBev CEO Carlos Brito in Washington to voice their opposition to the deal.

“They’re saying a lot of the right things, but it still might be [the case that while] the world headquarters in St. Louis might be the world headquarters for the Budweiser line of products, it wouldn’t … be the world headquarters of the company,” said House Minority Whip Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP hopes spending traps derail Biden agenda A tale of two chambers: Trump's power holds in House, wanes in Senate The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by AT&T - Senate passes infrastructure bill, budget resolution; Cuomo resigns MORE (R-Mo.) during a briefing last week with reporters “There’s a lot of reluctance in my state because of that.”

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“I told [Brito] that I was passionately opposed to the sale and that I would work as hard as I knew how to make sure it didn’t happen,” said Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillRepublicans may regret restricting reproductive rights Sunday shows preview: States deal with fallout of Ida; Texas abortion law takes effect Giuliani to stump for Greitens in Missouri MORE (D-Mo.).

“There’s been a lot of discussion about this, [and] not just within the delegation,” Carnahan said. “The brewery is based in my district, and to St. Louis — our state, our region — it’s the premier corporate citizen. We know that it’s certainly the headquarters, but there are 12 other breweries around the country, and distributorships that I think would be impacted by this.”

And, in a release this week, Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) summed up the attitude of the Missouri delegation by noting what he conveyed to Brito: “My Missouri constituents say, ‘This Bud’s not for you.’ ”

The potential Anheuser-Busch deal is not the first time McCain has found himself criticized for supporting foreign business interests over domestic interests. McCain intervened in 2004 against Boeing’s contract for refueling tankers with the Air Force, citing what he called a “rip-off.” McCain’s actions resulted in a joint bid between Northrop Grumman and European-owned Airbus prevailing in the contract, and subsequently attracted criticism from Democrats.

Missouri is a battleground state that has gone Republican the past two presidential elections. George W. Bush won Missouri by 3.3 percentage points in 2000. The president bested Sen. John KerryJohn Kerry9/11 and US-China policy: The geopolitics of distraction Australia's duty to the world: Stop mining coal Overnight Energy & Environment — Effort to repeal Arctic refuge drilling advances MORE (D-Mass.) in Missouri, 53-46, in 2004. However, Democrats have captured a Senate seat since then, and face a competitive gubernatorial campaign this fall, pitting Democratic Attorney General Jay Nixon against Rep. Kenny Hulshof (R-Mo.). Hulshof did not comment for this article.