Booze is king when it comes to political power

The force is strong with the bar and booze industry.

In Minnesota, liquor store owners killed Sunday liquor sales — again — in the recently concluded Minnesota legislative session.

Now, the liquor service industry is flexing its muscle in Wisconsin where it appears to be controlling the fate on a crackdown on drunk driving and efforts to change the state’s “drinking culture” , the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting today.

Four members of a task force on drunk driving quit yesterday (see letter), frustrated that the state paid no attention to their recommendations.

Instead, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation took its cues from the lobbyists for the tavern industry, they said.

The Tavern League of Wisconsin is the only non-government entity partnering with DOT on trying to change the state’s drinking culture, the four former task force members noted. They argued in their letter that the lobbying group has a “serious conflict of interest” and said universities and public health groups should have participated in that effort.

(Transportation secretary Mark) Gottlieb said it was appropriate to include the Tavern League in the effort because it operates the state’s SafeRide program, but noted he was open to including other groups in work on the state’s drinking culture. He noted the task force’s work as a whole includes input from a host of constituencies.

“I do not concede the Tavern League had any kind of undue or excessive influence,” he said.

Pete Madland, the Tavern League’s executive director, disagreed with the letter’s contention his group has a conflict of interest. Madland, who sits on the task force, said his opinions received criticism in meetings, but overall the experience was productive.

He expressed surprise at the resignations.

“Apparently, these people don’t appreciate different ideas and choose to withdraw from the group rather than stay involved,” Madland said.

“It would be like me calling (cigarette maker) Philip Morris and saying, ‘How should I do tobacco control in Wisconsin?’ Are you kidding me?” one of the exiting panel members said.

Related hooch: Balancing booze: Mpls. voters will decide whether to ease restaurant alcohol restrictions (Minnesota Public Radio News).