Beverage group renews its fight with MADD

A trade group representing the beverage industry seized on a report Monday that Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) had been downgraded in its charitable rating.

The American Beverage Institute (ABI), an industry-backed group that has long sparred with MADD, trumpeted an annual report by the American Institute of Philanthropy that graded MADD a “D” in its annual Charity Rating Guide & Watchdog Report.

ABI argues that MADD has changed in the last 20 years to become an anti-alcohol group instead of an organization trying to end drinking and driving.

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

The charity report centered on MADD’s overhead on salaries and fundraising but relatively lower amount spent on charitable work, including services for victims of accidents involving drunk driving. 

MADD defended its work.

"Our focus on drunk driving, underage drinking and victim services is stronger than ever. While methodologies for determining efficiency differ, we are proud to invest more than three fourths of our funds in programs to support people and save lives and continue to streamline our efforts to be fiscally responsible. Like many, we’ve experienced challenging economic times. Although we have saved almost 300,000 lives and counting, the problem of underage drinking and drunk driving is far from solved. This simply means we need the public's assistance now more than ever," the organization said in a statement.

ABI and MADD have long fought over laws meant to curtail drunk-driving crimes, and the new charity rating was a prime opportunity for the restaurant association to pounce.

In particular, the groups have locked horns over so-called “interlock” technology that’s been proposed in legislation in this Congress. Under bills introduced by Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.) and Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), the technology would be installed in the autos of convicted drunk drivers to ensure sobriety before they take the wheel.

MADD has dismissed ABI as a group funded by restaurant chains that make a great deal of profit on alcohol sales.

-- This story was updated at 7:52 p.m. and corrected at 10:30 a.m. on July 27.