Yesterday, Barack Obama picked Charles Hurley to head the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). His resume looks impressive. He was a VP “of the Transportation Safety Group for the National Safety Council and the executive director of the Council’s Air Bag and Seat Belt Safety Campaign.” All well and good.
What’s not so good is that since 2005, Hurley has also been at the helm of one of the country’s most influential and destructive neo-prohibitionist groups, Mothers Against Drunk Driving. And long before that, he was an active supporter of MADD. From the 2005 press release announcing Hurley as MADD’s new CEO:
A longtime friend and supporter of MADD, Hurley has played an important role in the organization’s history. He attended MADD’s first national press conference in October 1980 in Washington, D.C., and helped MADD win support for the Presidential Commission on Drunk Driving. He also worked for and strongly supported MADD’s efforts to pass the National 21 Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984. From 1993 to 1998, Hurley served on the MADD National Board of Directors.
News reports are focusing on Hurley’s record of working on safety issues, and that’s certainly a good thing. But what troubles me is that MADD may have been about keeping drunk drivers off the road when it began, but at least since founder Candy Lightner left in 1985 (five years after its founding) it’s grown increasingly into a neo-prohibitionst group that’s become less and less about drunk driving and more about removing all alcohol from society. And obviously that includes the last four years that Hurley was running the propaganda organization. The idea of MADD setting government policy from within the NHTSA is frightening in the extreme. When it comes to the safety issues that’s all well and good but it seems all too easy to imagine the propaganda, exaggerations and misinformation that MADD has been spewing for years would be used to create policy without oversight, without listening to dissenting voices, and without regard to reality, truth or — probably — our civil rights. This could be very, very bad. Putting anyone with such an extreme agenda into a position of power with the ability to make policy seems like an incredibly dangerous thing to do, but especially so when he’s an insider to the neo-prohibitionist movement. That’s driving me to drink.