When phony ‘watchdogs’ attack

ADVERTISEMENT
Ms. Sloan, on the other hand, attacks me personally, cynically and despicably accusing me of defending drunk drivers—as though I and the people I love aren’t out on the roads as well. It isn’t a defense of drunk driving to say that requiring an alcohol detector on every car is absurd. Nearly 30 percent of Americans don’t ever consume alcohol, and the devices, even if they meet the highest technological standards, will still malfunction 4,000 times a day leaving many drivers stranded. By all means, let’s get drunk drivers off the roads, but not by treating every American as though they are criminals.

Unfortunately, Ms. Sloan's bad faith in presenting the issues surrounding interlocks is exceeded by the sweep of her attacks. She accuses the communications firm Berman and Company of running “phony” non-profits. In fact, Berman and Company manages three non-profits and one trade association (ABI), not 23, as Ms. Sloan alleges, all of which comply with strict federal regulations, aiming specifically to provide issue education to the public.

Hoping to discredit opposition to interlocks by attempting to discredit our organizations is a poor way to persuade -- especially while CREW itself has so misleadingly and shamelessly promoted itself as an impartial arbiter of ethics far above the political fray. On the contrary, funded by wealthy Democrats and run by career liberal activists, CREW could hardly be more partisan. Ms. Sloan should acknowledge the glass house from which she casts her stones.

The fact is, her organization has zero interest in alcohol policy. She merely used her piece as an opportunity to take a series of cheap shots at one of her funders’ opponents. It's an approach that's disappointingly consistent with CREW's organizational history. The Center for Consumer Freedom -- one of the four groups managed by Berman and Company -- analyzed CREW's habits in filing complaints, and found that between March 2004 and September 2010 nearly 8 out of every 10 of its filings to various government oversight agencies targeted right-of-center or Republican institutions or individuals. Meanwhile, no more than 15 percent of its complaints went after left-of-center or Democratic targets.

If CREW owned up to its bias, hit pieces like Ms. Sloan's wouldn’t be as shocking, though they would remain just as irresponsible. Even agenda-driven activists are obliged to respect the facts, and that's something Ms. Sloan declines to do. She’d rather use CREW’s tax-exempt status, and the government’s resources, to inaccurately vilify organizations like ABI.

Sarah Longwell is vice president of Berman and Company and managing director of American Beverage Institute.