Matt Rothschild
Campaign Cash

Tavern League Favors Drunk Driving Bill

Big donor to politicians wants tougher penalties but easy on first-time offenders.

By , Wisconsin Democracy Campaign - Feb 8th, 2017 11:12 am
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Traffic Stop.

Traffic Stop.

The Tavern League of Wisconsin is supporting a package of GOP legislative proposals that would toughen penalties for repeat drunk drivers, but keep Wisconsin as the only state in the country where first-offense drunken driving is not a criminal offense.

The bills to increase drunk driving penalties would:

Create a new minimum five-year prison sentenced for homicide by drunken driving;

Increase to 18 months the current minimum six-month prison sentence for fifth- and sixth-offense drunken driving;

Require prosecution for convicted drunken drivers who are caught without an ignition interlock device after their revoked driver licenses are restored. Ignition interlocks require people to blow into the device and get an alcohol-free reading before the car can be started.

However, the package of proposals by Sen. Alberta Darling, of River Hills, and Rep. Jim Ott, of Mequon, do not include a change in state law to make first-offense drunken driving a crime.

Tavern League President Pete Madland said in a statement issued by the lawmakers that the league supports these bills because they go “after the worst offenders who give everyone else a bad name.”

Darling, Ott and others have introduced numerous drunken driving bills in the past to create or increase various penalties. Few of those proposals have passed, in part because of pricey estimates on what it would cost to enforce new laws and house or treat the increased number of convicted drunken drivers who go to jail or prison.

The Tavern League is a generous contributor to both Republican and Democratic legislative and statewide candidates. Between January 2010 and October 2016, the league’s political action committee (PAC) and its conduit, which is a legal check-bundling outfit that funnels individual contributions to candidates, sent about $486,000 in contributions to candidates and legislative fundraising committees. The top recipients of Tavern League PAC and conduit contributions were:

Republican Gov. Scott Walker, about $54,200;

GOP Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, of Juneau, about $27,900;

Republican Assembly Campaign Committee, $26,500;

GOP Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, $23,350;

Committee to Elect a Republican Senate, $20,000.

Darling accepted $1,800 in Tavern League PAC and conduit contributions between January 2010 and October 2016. Ott did not receive any Tavern League PAC or conduit contributions during the period.

Matthew Rothschild is executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

3 thoughts on “Campaign Cash: Tavern League Favors Drunk Driving Bill”

  1. Vincent Hanna says:

    -Tavern League President Pete Madland said in a statement issued by the lawmakers that the league supports these bills because they go “after the worst offenders who give everyone else a bad name.”

    All drunk driving is bad, first-time offense or not. Who is everyone else here? Drivers? Drinkers? Those who never get more than one DUI? These people still have their head in the sand when it comes to the seriousness of drinking and driving in Wisconsin.

  2. Caligula says:

    They should support ending the failure of cannabis prohibition. Every state that has done so already has seen a precipitous drop in their drunk driving rates, as well as teen cannabis use rates falling and opioid addictions and dwaths have plunged. Pour out the brain cell killing, iq lowering, rot gut liquor poison and Legalize it Wisconsin.

  3. Joe says:

    The bill doesn’t go nearly far enough. You can currently be convicted of OWI twice with no mandatory incarceration; this bill does nothing to change that. Suspension of a license is a meaningless gesture that does nothing to physically prevent habitual offenders from continuing to put others in danger. Even worse, fourth, fifth, and sixth offenses carry a minimum of merely 6 months in jail. There is no rational explanation for such lenient punishment, and pushing 5th and 6th offenses to 18 months is laughable.

    Any conviction for OWI should result in immediate jail time, along with impoundment of the offender’s motor vehicle. Wisconsin is a national embarrassment on this front. Time to get out of the stone age.

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