ABL ups efforts slamming GM for its support of MADD

WASHINGTON: A trade group representing alcohol retailers is stepping up a campaign blasting Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and General Motors.

WASHINGTON: A trade group representing alcohol retailers is stepping up a campaign blasting Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and General Motors.

The American Beverage Licensees (ABL) contends that MADD has strayed from its mission of fighting drunken driving to demonize all alcohol consumption, said Rick Berman, president of public affairs firm Berman & Co., which is handling the campaign for ABL.

It is attacking the group by pressuring GM to stop its continued support of MADD, which is now at a critical juncture. The auto giant's five-year commitment to donate $2.5 million to MADD ended in December, but GM plans to continue supporting the organization, said Alan Adler, GM's manager of product safety communications.

A test of the campaign began about a year and a half ago in Wisconsin and has now spread to 12 states. The group's board will meet in the next several weeks to discuss expanding the effort further and targeting other companies that give money to MADD, Berman said.

"We'll just allow the campaign to grow until there's some relief from the auto industry," Berman explained.

Efforts so far have included coasters, posters, and brochures at member bars and taverns; outdoor advertising at NASCAR events; and a website, www.MADDatGM.com. The brochures encourage people to think twice about buying from the car company.

ABL contends that the automaker is supporting MADD so that it doesn't have to talk about other driving problems, such as cell-phone use or excessive speed, said Berman.

But Adler said that isn't the case. "GM cares very, very much about impaired driving," which includes "anything that causes you to have anything but your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel."

Heidi Castle, MADD's director of communications, said in a statement: "This campaign is an effort to distract the public from the real issue: drunk driving continues to be a threat to all of us."

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