Madd Founder's New Job: Liquor Lobbyist

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The woman who founded Mothers Against Drunk Driving after her daughter was killed by an inebriated hit-and-run driver is now a paid lobbyist for a liquor-industry trade group.

Candy Lightner began work in Washington, D.C., last week for the American Beverage Institute, which represents breweries and restaurants.

Lightner said Thursday she is lobbying state legislatures against laws to lower the legal standard for drunken driving to 0.08 percent blood-alcohol content. Many states, including Washington, have a 0.10 percent standard.

MADD supports the lower level.

Lightner founded MADD after her 13-year-old daughter, Cari, was killed by a hit-and-run drunken driver in May 1980 in suburban Sacramento. The driver's blood-alcohol level was 0.20 percent.

Lightner said her new job doesn't conflict with her years spent trying to stiffen drunken-driving laws.

She told The Sacramento Bee, "I assume some people will say, `Gee, what's she doing working for the industry, the other side?'

"I don't see it as the other side. They're just as affected by drunk driving as anyone else. Drunk driving certainly doesn't enhance their business. They have friends, neighbors and relatives hurt by drunk driving."

Lightner was fired by MADD's board in 1985 over disagreements, including her request for a $10,000 bonus on top of her $76,000 annual salary.

She declined to say how much she is being paid as a full-time

employee of Berman & Co., a lobbying firm whose clients include the beverage industry.

Andrew McGuire, executive director of the Trauma Foundation at San Francisco General Hospital and a former MADD board member, said any association with the liquor industry is counterproductive.

"Anyone who is serious about preventing drunk driving should not ever get in bed with the alcohol industry," he said, "because the industry has the goal of getting more people to drink, and when more people drink, you have more drunk driving."

Beckie Brown, current president of MADD in Irving, Texas, said Lightner's new position wouldn't damage MADD's reputation.

"We believe 0.08 needs to be passed, and Candy doesn't," Brown said. "We just have a difference in philosophy right now."