SADD Apparently To Reconsider Liquor-Industry Funding

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The national board of Students Against Driving Drunk apparently will reconsider its decision to accept funding from the liquor industry after a wrenching internal debate over the issue became public last week.

The board of the Marlborough, Mass.-based organization, which works to eliminate teenage alcohol use and drunken driving through some 25,000 school chapters nationwide, is scheduled to meet this week to review its decision last month to once again accept funding from liquor-related businesses.

That vote came after two straight years in which the nonprofit national organization lost money. SADD posted a loss of $557,824 in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 1992, according to the Massachusetts attorney general's office. In the previous fiscal year, the group had a deficit of $160,831.

Robert Anastas, a former high school administrator and hockey coach in Massachusetts, founded SADD in 1982 in response to a wave of drunken-driving-related deaths of youths.

Donna McBride, a national board member and state SADD coordinator for Arizona, said the liquor issue is of concern to many state coordinators and student members of the group.

"We are talking about a youth organization that stresses a strict no-[alcohol] use message,'' she said. "I think it is just a contradiction and a mixed message if we take this money. I met with my Arizona student leaders, and they were quite appalled that the question even came up.''

SADD did take donations from the liquor industry from 1982 through 1989. Anheuser-Busch Inc., the brewer of Budweiser beer and other brands, said it provided SADD with $1.8 million during those years.

An official representing Anheuser-Busch said SADD's board recently approached the company to discuss resuming funding of the group. The brewer has offered an initial donation of $100,000.

Resignations Threatened

The liquor issue has divided SADD. Its current executive director, William Cullinane, has threatened to resign if the board stands by its decision to accept the Anheuser-Busch funding. So has Ms. McBride.

"I don't think there is any giving in on this,'' she said.

SADD's current board president, Allan Y. Cohen, has stepped down from that post in protest over the change, although he did not give up his seat on the board, Ms. McBride said.

But board members who supported the change in policy have pointed to SADD's mounting financial losses and have said that it is appropriate for the liquor industry to help fight the problems of alcohol abuse and drunken driving.

No board members who supported the change could be reached for comment last week. An employee at SADD's headquarters said nothing further would be said about the topic until after the board's April 24 meeting.

Mike Gimbel, who oversees 40 SADD chapters in suburban Baltimore as the director of the Baltimore County office of substance abuse, drew a parallel to the local level, where liquor retailers have helped fund "safe prom'' programs and other efforts to fight drunken driving.

"I don't think that the national liquor people want to see teenagers become alcoholics, nor do I think they like it when drunken-driving accidents happen,'' he said. "I don't think it is hypocritical to accept money from them.''

Vol. 12, Issue 30

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