Donation Watchdog Chides Tavern League Over Drinking Age Bill

Dec 5, 2017

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Wisconsin Democracy Campaign  page is here.

The head of a campaign contribution watchdog group says proposed legislation to lower the state's drinking age is a reflection of Tavern League lobbying.

Wisconsin Democracy Campaign Director Matt Rothschild says that group has a monthly posting called 'Influence Peddler Of The Month' and for December named the Tavern League of Wisconsin.

Rothschild says the trade and lobbying group has generated more than $2 million over the past 10 years to influence legislation it favors in Madison.

There is a recent proposal to lower the drinking age to 19....

"...I believe they will be pushing that, I don't know if they've formally registered on that, certainly the people in the legislature who are closely aligned with the Tavern League. including Rep. Rob Swearingen(R-Rhinelander) who used to be the president of the Tavern League, himself a restaurant owner, are behind this bill...."

When the bill was introduced by Swearingen and two other legislators in early November , Swearingen said one reason was to put young drinkers in regulated establishments.

"....there is plenty of underage drinking going on, minors drinking, The goal is to get the kids out of the cornfields and out of the gravel pits and out of somebody's  basement and get into a supervised setting, they can get a safe ride home. This bill hinges on not losing federal highway funds...."

The federal government will likely yank road funding if a state's drinking age is under 21.

Rothschild says Swearingen has previously received about $12,000 from the Tavern League conduit that is used to support candidates.

The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign says the League also supports measures to use ignition interlocks, expand safe ride programs, increase drunken driving penalties for multiple offenses, and repeal the personal property tax.