POLITICS

MADD’s new focus: Prohibition

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Barbara Hollingsworth

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is suffering from mission creep. A victim of its own success, the non-profit group is now pursuing Prohibitionist anti-alcohol policies – such as calling for alcohol detectors in all cars – instead of focusing on its original goal of reducing drunk driving deaths.

“The public needs to realize that MADD isn’t the same group it was 20 years ago,” says American Beverage Institute (ABI) Managing Director Sarah Longwell.

MADD founder Candy Lightner agrees. The non-profit group she started in 1980 after her daughter was killed by a drunk driver “has become far more neo-prohibitionist than I had ever wanted or envisioned … I didn’t start MADD to deal with alcohol. I started MADD to deal with the issue of drunk driving.”

Part of the problem is MADD’s prior success in bringing the issue of drunk driving to the public’s attention.

“The biggest problem in reducing drunk driving fatalities now consists of the hard core of alcoholic drivers who repeatedly drive with BAC’s of .15 or higher,” says Dr. David Hanson, professor emeritus at the State University of New York/Potsdam. “But MADD has now decided to go after social drinkers and to eliminate driving after drinking any amount of alcohol beverage. This change appears to reflect the influence of a growing neo-prohibitionist movement within MADD.”

The change in focus has been accompanied by a change in the way MADD spends donor funds. The American Institute of Philanthropy recently downgraded MADD to a “D” in its 2010 Charity Guide and Watchdog Report, citing the group’s diminished focus on education and victim services in favor of fundraising and anti-drinking activism.

According to the AIP, MADD spent nearly double the average amount on fundraising, leaving just a little more than half of its revenue for programs. In 2008, despite declining revenue, two-thirds of its  budget – almost $30 million – was spent on staff salaries (which increased 56 percent).

Meanwhile, spending on community programs dropped 17 percent. It may be even lower than that, as MADD reportedly counts payments to professional fundraisers as charitable work, claiming they help educate potential donors.

Charity Navigator, which rates the effectiveness of various charitable organizations, also gave MADD just one out of four possible stars.

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Barbara Hollingsworth

Local Opinion Editor
The Washington Examiner