John Guenther

John GuentherJohn is a SoCal native and a graduate student at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at USC.

Currently, John is interning at Southern California Public Radio (KPCC) on their digital media team. He has also spent times as a staff writer for The Daily Breeze newspaper and as a staff reporter and associate news editor at Neon Tommy, the online news site at Annenberg, contributing city hall stories and feature articles. This summer he interned at the New Statesman magazine in London on their web team.

Recent stories by John Guenther

Alcohol bill splits industry, campaign contributions

The CARE Act will make it more difficult for lawsuits to challenge state alcohol regulations. (Credit: John Guenther)

Shoppers can buy just about anything online today with just a point and click, from a book to a pair of shoes to a camera. But buying a bottle of wine can be a little trickier.

That's because states, not the feds, have ultimate control over the sale of alcohol crossing their borders, unlike almost every other product. This allows states to prevent residents from buying that bottle of wine directly from an out-of-state seller.

A bill before Congress could strengthen states' hold on that power and make it harder for alcohol producers to break into new markets. The pending legislation has already reignited a fight between producers and wholesalers, whose business it is to distribute alcohol across the country and who represent one of the most powerful industry lobbies in Washington.

It's a Lobbyist's Life

There were 13,740 active, registered lobbyists in Washington in 2009 according to a study by the Center for Responsive Politics (Credit: John Guenther).

While Washington natives sipped their fancy cocktails and enjoyed the air-conditioning at the D.C. Coast Restaurant in downtown, veteran lobbyist Sam Johnson* answered a phone call from his 13-year-old son.

His son was asking for permission to attend a Friday night dance sponsored by their family's local church. Johnson granted it, and then hung up.

"I'm crazy to let him go," Johnson said with a laugh while drinking his first Manhattan. "You can just feel the teen hormones flying around at those things."

As a single dad of two kids, Johnson is used to accommodating his children's needs and demands. It's a funny role reversal, though, for a veteran lobbyist who asks Congressmen to support his own requests on almost a daily basis.

Graphic: How Money Flows Into Campaigns

Presidential candidates spent $1.8 billion running for office in the 2008 election cycle. In the 2010 mid-terms, $3.9 billion was spent on Congressional elections. The 2012 elections are expected to break new records in campaign finance. Here's a look at where that money comes from and how it's used.

Western Congressman Rides Again with a Lobbyist in His Posse

Rep. Steve Pearce, a former oil services company owner, drew in the most money from oil and gas companies as a House candidate in the 2010 election cycle. (Oil well photo - Bureau of Land Management; photo of Steve Pearce - Wikimedia Commons; gray wolf photo - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

House Rep. Steve Pearce rode a wave of national resentment and money from oil and gas companies to regain an office he vacated in 2008.

Now he's back, and he brought with him a former Washington insider and lobbyist who sought to roll back environmental legislation well before it was the hot new thing to do.

Where Alcohol And Politics Mix, Sin Taxes Leave Bad Taste

(Photo: John Guenther)

California's big alcohol industry fills the glasses of many Americans and the coffers of many politicians. The state's tax rates on alcohol are some of the lowest in the country as a result. Despite a large budget deficit, Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers are not looking to change this any time soon.

"They have hordes of lobbyists," California Assembly Member Jim Beall, Jr. (D-24) said, describing the alcohol industry's political army. "One of them called me 'the devil.'" Why? Simply because Beall authored a recent failed bill to impose a fee on alcohol purchases.