March 4, 2005

Alcohol lobbyist MADD at GM

Washington, D.C. – A Washington-based lobby group has launched a national campaign, called MADDatGM, to protest GM’s association with Mothers Against Drunk Driving and their efforts to lower legal blood-alcohol levels. The low-key effort has the backing of 17,000 bars, taverns and liquor stores, and GM officials say the group is threatening that its members will quit buying GM vehicles for corporate fleet use.

The group says that MADD is no longer just trying to halt drunken driving, but has become a “prohibitionist group” that wants to criminalize all drinking. MADD denies the claim, saying that it focuses on preventing drunken driving, helping victims of drunken driving, and halting under-age drinking. It notes that the MADDatGM push is from businesses that make money off alcohol sales.

GM is one of MADD’s top corporate sponsors; it donated over US$3 million in the last five years. A commitment in 2000 in honour of MADD’s 20th anniversary expired at the end of 2004 and GM officials say MADDatGM is timed to coincide with that.

“We want to stop GM from contributing to MADD,” said Rick Berman, the lobbyist running the MADDatGM campaign. “We have a problem with GM money going to criminalize social drinkers. GM needs to recognize it is attacking legitimate businesses.” Berman has a history of representing tobacco firms, restaurant chains and beer distributors in fights against labour unions, consumer-health groups and efforts to raise the minimum wage.

A spokesperson for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration defended MADD, saying that because of it, the number of alcohol-related deaths dropped from 26,173 in 1982 to 17,013 in 2003.

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