As Congress debated the historic financial rescue package on Oct. 3, the world economy was hanging in the balance. The House already had rejected Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s emergency $700 billion banking bailout plan. The Senate, hoping to get the House to relent, added $110 billion in “sweeteners” and sent the bill back.
One of those sweeteners jumped out at Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio). It would permit Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to pocket $192 million in federal excise taxes collected from rum-makers in those territories. “Madam speaker, the Senate’s response to the House rejection of the Paulson plan was to add more spending. So we got tax breaks for rum,” Kaptur said from the well of the House. “You’ve got it right. R-U-M.”
Lobbyists for Bacardi and Captain Morgan, the two most popular rum brands in America, howled in protest at the suggestion the money would go to rum-makers. The provision does not give money to Bacardi and Captain Morgan, they said. It gives it to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands to build up their economies in hopes of averting the need for larger financial handouts from the mainland, they argued…[But] when ProPublica looked closer, it found that a significant share of the $192 million will indeed go to rum-makers as marketing subsidies and production incentives.