Devin Nunes Invested In California Wine Company With Business Ties To Russia? [Fact Check]
By Shawn Rice
House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes is being accused of owning stock in a California winery that sold 22 cases of wine to a Russian distributor in 2013. However, there is no strong evidence to support the conclusion that Nunes’ financial wealth is invested in a wine company with “strong ties” to Russia. This is an unproven claim.
Nunes is an eight-term Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee who is leading the House’s investigation into Russia’s possible involvement in the US election including any possible ties to top campaign aides for Donald Trump. He is currently facing calls from Democrats to step down from his post.
Where did the unproven claim originate? Liberal blogs on March 22, 2017 such as the Palmer Report and Addicting Info posted stories that reported that Nunes had business ties to Russia, because a winery he is invested in sold wine bottles in Russia through a Russian beverage distributor. You can see text from those stories below.
“According to Scott Dworkin of the respected Democratic Coalition Against Trump, the Nunes’ winery has a Russian distributor who is close to Vladimir Putin. This means Nunes has the vast majority of his small net worth tied up in a business venture which partially relies on sales in Russia. At the least, Nunes benefits greatly if Trump remains in office long enough to continue repealing Russian sanctions. Is this why Nunes is so desperate to protect Trump?”
The Palmer Report post quoted above contained a link to a table published by the Los Angeles Times listing Nunes’ financial wealth which included a $50,001 investment in Alpha Omega Winery, a family-owned Napa Valley-based business.
According to Alpha Omega spokeswoman Kelly Carter, the winery’s founder Robin Bagget invited Nunes and a few other personal friends to invest in his winery in 2005. It opened for business in 2006. Carter sent Snopes a company statement by e-mail:
“The only time Alpha Omega did business in Russia was in 2013 when a broker handled a one-time transaction for 22 cases of wine.
Rep. Devin Nunes is one of a few friends Alpha Omega managing partner Robin Baggett invited to invest in the winery in 2005. None of the investors has ever been involved with the management of the company. Robin is the sole managing partner and ultimate decision maker at Alpha Omega. Robin has made a point to never mix politics with the business of Alpha Omega. Our business model is simple: grow great grapes, make great wine, hire great people and provide our customers with a great experience.”
The Russian alcohol broker Luding was listed on the winery’s web site as a distributor, but was later removed. Screen shots of the page were posted to social media along with the claim that it proved Russian ties between the winery and Russian President Vladimir Putin: