Devin Nunes and '#YachtCocaineProstitutes' Boat Owner Still 'Good Friends'

2 min
The Alpha Omega, is currently docked in Sausalito, is up for sale.  (Chloe Veltman/KQED)

You’ve probably forgotten about a scandal from a couple of years ago involving a yacht and a Napa Valley winery in which Rep. Devin Nunes is an investor.

The Republican congressman hasn’t.

Nunes filed a $150 million defamation lawsuit last week against a newspaper publisher. The suit has yanked the story, about an alleged 2015 sex-and-drug-fueled party aboard the Alpha Omega vessel, back into the headlines.

The article said Nunes (R-Visalia) wasn't on the yacht the day of the party, and linked him to a winery employee's complaint in his capacity as an investor in the Alpha Omega Winery. But the congressman sued Fresno Bee publisher McClatchy in early April, saying: "They need to retract everything they did against me."

Alpha Omega Winery Vintner and Managing Partner Robin Baggett is a friend of Devin Nunes. The Republican Congressman has brought some unwanted media attention to Baggett's business with his latest $150 million defamation lawsuit.
Alpha Omega Winery vintner and managing partner Robin Baggett is a friend of Devin Nunes. The Republican congressman has brought some unwanted media attention to Baggett's business with his latest $150 million defamation lawsuit. (Courtesy of Alpha Omega Winery)

KQED reporters discovered the Alpha Omega yacht in a Sausalito marina with a "For Sale" sign on it, and wondered if the sale had anything to do with its headlined past.

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Speaking in a tasting room at Alpha Omega Winery in St. Helena, winery and yacht owner Robin Baggett said the decision to put his 59-foot yacht on the market has nothing to do with the scandal: He and his wife, Michelle, just hadn’t sailed the boat in a while.

Coverage of Rep. Devin Nunes

"It's a little bit like going through your closet," Baggett said. "If you haven't worn something for a year, you might think about giving it to Goodwill."

But the Baggetts aren’t exactly happy about the media’s renewed interest in the yacht story, the result of Nunes’ lawsuit.

"I wish this didn’t happen," Baggett said, adding that Nunes called him in advance of filing the lawsuit to give him a heads-up. "Trust me."

In 2018, The Fresno Bee reported that an Alpha Omega Winery employee alleged witnessing 25 wine industry investors, all of them men, openly taking what appeared to be cocaine and paying for sexual services from prostitutes aboard the company yacht during a 2015 charity fundraiser.

The employee sued the winery for sexual harassment and emotional distress, among other things. The winery eventually settled with her for an undisclosed sum in Napa County Superior Court, Baggett said.

Alpha Omega Winery in St. Helena, Napa Valley.
Alpha Omega Winery in St. Helena, Napa Valley. (Chloe Veltman/KQED)

Baggett, who owns two additional wineries in San Luis Obispo and in Spain, and two additional yachts, said sales at Alpha Omega are up, and the bad press hasn’t negatively impacted business.

"It's more that our relationship with Devin — we've had a couple of people say they're not going to buy the wine," he said.

Baggett said Nunes holds a tiny stake in the winery, and his old friend and fellow Republican never set foot on the yacht. Nunes didn't respond to KQED's request for comment.

But Alpha Omega’s connection to the polarizing politician has led to a deluge of negative posts on social media over the past few years.

Republican Congressman Devin Nunes' most recent legal action comes on the heels of similar lawsuits he recently filed against Twitter and parody social media accounts claiming to be his mom and his cow.
Republican Rep. Devin Nunes' most recent legal action comes on the heels of similar lawsuits he recently filed against Twitter and parody social media accounts claiming to be his mom and his cow. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

In addition to the yacht debacle, commenters have drawn out the fact that Nunes is an investor in the winery. Articles and social media posts have suggested the winery has ties to Russia, seemingly a reference to Nunes’ involvement in the recently concluded federal investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Baggett called the Russia-related allegations "ridiculous."

"It’s never even been discussed here, ever, to sell wine to Russia," he said.

Despite the headaches Nunes has been causing the winery, Baggett remains loyal.

"We’re good friends," Baggett said. "That hasn’t changed one bit."

Baggett is confident the Alpha Omega yacht will sell, but he said the connection to Nunes may cause the boat’s price to drop.