Sunday, October 09, 2005

Drunk with power

I didn't get around to blogging Radley Balko's last op-ed on the 25th anniversary of MADD. He rightly congratulates them on a job well done, noting drunk driving deaths are down more than 35% since the 80s. He goes on to tell us by the mid-90s the deaths began to level off, thus validating MADD's success in changing public priorities and perceptions. Unfortunately they didn't stop there. Since then their mission has subtly changed to be anti-alcohol, bringing the organization into the realm of "neo-prohibition."

He charts their progress at diminishing the civil liberties of alcohol consumers from unreasonably lowering the legal limit for blood content to Fourth Amendment trampling roadblock searches to undermining legal protections for alleged drunk drivers. Most disturbing is their push into family law.

MADD is also pushing its agenda onto family laws, including a zero tolerance policy for divorced parents. Under the bills MADD is trying to push through state legislatures, a parent caught consuming one beer or glass of wine before driving could face penalties that, according to MADD, "should include, but are not limited to" — "incarceration," "change of primary custody," or "termination of parental rights." This means that if you take your kid to the game, have a beer in the third inning, then drive home, you could very well lose your rights as a father.
This was news to me but I'm not surprised to hear it. The family courts in my experience are already pre-disposed against responsible consumption. Meanwhile even MADD's founder laments the agency having drifted so far into neo-prohibtion. That was not her intent for it but there's a bigger problem with MADD that should concern us as taxpayers.
Unfortunately, the tax-exempt organization has become so enmeshed with government it has nearly become a formal government agency. MADD gets millions of dollars in federal and state funding, and has a quasi-official relationship with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In some jurisdictions, DWI defendants are sentenced to attend and pay for alcoholic-recovery groups sponsored by MADD. In many cities, MADD officials are even allowed to man sobriety checkpoints alongside police.
I agree with Radley. It's time for "Congress revisit the spigot of federal funding flowing to MADD, and consider revoking the organization's tax-exempt status." They have become an anti-alcohol lobbying group and as such should not be funded on the taxpayers' dime nor given a tax free ride on their income.


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