Virtual reception, real Jack Daniel’s for lawmakers

A Jack Daniel’s pickup truck is parked in spot reserved for the House speaker’s office outside the Cordell Hull Building in Nashville on Feb. 24, 2021. (Sam Stockard, Tennessee Lookout)

Jack Daniel’s representatives were at the state Capitol complex today, handing out free bottles of Tennessee whiskey and gift bags to lawmakers in advance of a “virtual reception,” the Tennessee Lookout’s Sam Stockard reports.

In-person legislative receptions are on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so the Lynchburg distiller has invited lawmakers to join a viewing of a Jack Daniel’s documentary from their homes or offices.

“Please mark your calendars for this exclusive opportunity as we toast and honor the Tennessee Legislature,” the invitation says.

Most gifts to lawmakers are banned under ethics rules, though lobbyists and their employers can offer free food and drink as long as each legislator is invited. But those events are generally held off-site when alcohol is involved.

According to the Ethics and Campaign Finance Bureau, Brown-Forman properly applied to hold the virtual reception, although the expense per person is pending. Jack Daniel’s corporate parent Brown-Forman did ask permission from the Ethics Commission, but didn’t run the idea past Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge). A spokesman for House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) said he was aware the liquor had been offered to all members.

Longtime Capitol watchers said the whiskey handout reminded them of the time when a liquor lobbyist would cover the the cost of any liquor picked up by legislators at the old Hermitage package store or when a beer lobbyist would place free suds in the car of any member who left their trunk lid open.

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