Chuck Hurley
Key Player

CEO, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)

About Chuck Hurley

In March 2005, Charles “Chuck” Hurley joined Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) as Chief Executive Officer. He previously worked for MADD in the 1980s running a volunteer office and then served on MADD’s National Board of Directors from 1993 to 1998.

Before starting as CEO, Hurley served as vice president of the Transportation Safety Group for the National Safety Council and in the early 1990s worked as Senior Vice President at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

In April 2009, the Obama administration announced its intent to nominate Hurley to serve as the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Amid concern over Hurley’s ties to large automakers, Hurley later withdrew his name from consideration.

Hurley graduated from Dickinson College in Pennsylvania in 1967 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science.

Fiscal Responsibility of a MADD Hatter

During Hurley’s tenure at MADD, the organization’s revenue has declined while Hurley and other officers saw their salaries increase. According to MADD’s tax filings, annual compensation for officers and directors—including Hurley—increased a whopping 56 percent after Hurley took the helm as CEO in 2005. In fact, Hurley’s own annual compensation increased nearly 14 percent over that period, to over $250,000. Contributions to employee pension plans totaled over $2.6 million under Hurley. Yearly spending on employee benefits increased 38 percent to over $2.1 million.

In contrast, MADD’s revenue declined nearly one-quarter over the same period. And MADD’s spending on community programs—what a charity should be about—dropped by 17 percent.

MADD claims that Hurley took a “substantial” pay cut in October 2009. The self-sacrificial cut was apparently far too little, far too late. The Salisbury Daily Times reported in January 2010 that MADD’s Delaware office was forced to close after it was unable to raise $50,000. In fact, MADD had to lay off 50 employees nationwide—15 percent of its workforce—a move the Delaware chapter’s last director said had cut much of MADD’s victim advocacy work.

MADD’s reckless spending under Hurley didn’t go unnoticed. Sandra Miniutti, vice president of the nonprofit watchdog Charity Navigator, showed concern over why salaries increased while MADD’s financial performance sagged. Miniutti told the Reno Gazette-Journal: “When you look at the contrast between pay raises and slipping financial health, you have to wonder if the board is really evaluating their performance.”

Charity Navigator gives MADD an overall rating of 1 out of 4 stars. Charity Navigator reserves this embarrassing basement level for a charity that fails “to meet industry standards” and performs “well below most charities in its Cause.”

Other charity watchdogs have also taken notice of Hurley’s reckless fiscal plans. The American Institute of Philanthropy’s (AIP) Charity Rating Guide has consistently given MADD a ‘D’ on an A-F scale due to its poor fundraising and spending practices. (In 2009, MADD was able to pull its AIP rating up to a ‘C.’)

According to the AIP, it should cost most charities $35 or less to raise $100. In some years, MADD has spent nearly double that amount to raise $100. The AIP also says most highly efficient charities are able to spend 75 percent or more of total expenses on charitable programs. In some years, MADD has spent as little as 57 percent on such programs.

Faulty Fatality Statistics

Though truly “drunk” driving is a serious issue, the problem has been greatly reduced since the 1970s and 1980s. Few people outside the traffic-safety field know about the tremendous progress that has been made. And people like Chuck Hurley, whose living depends on keeping the drunk driving problem big, are not about to tell you about it.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving relentlessly reminds the American public that drinking drivers are a huge problem on our roadways and, as a result, that drastic measures (and financial contributions to MADD) are needed.

MADD has kept the drunk driving problem looking bigger than it is by inflating traffic fatality statistics. MADD spokespeople and literature cite high levels of alcohol-related traffic deaths. For example, almost 18,000 deaths were classified as alcohol-related in 2007 (NHTSA finally changed the way they are classified). But alcohol-related doesn’t mean alcohol-caused. In fact, that figure includes anyone killed in a crash in which anyone involved (driver, pedestrian, cyclist, etc.) was estimated to have had any trace of alcohol.

For example, if a non-drinking driver speeds through a stop sign, crashing into a pedestrian who had one glass of wine at dinner, statistics reflect that death as “alcohol-related.”

After accounting for those people, actual drunk-driving victims only make up a small percent of the widely reported statistic—a considerably smaller amount than activists have led us to believe.

Drunk driving is still a problem. But it’s a much smaller problem than MADD makes it look like by citing inflated fatality statistics. It’s a problem that should be dealt with by targeting the hardcore drunk drivers who cause the vast majority of fatalities. Instead, MADD focuses broadly on the whole drinking population by supporting policies like zero tolerance, placing alcohol detection technology in all cars, and inefficient sobriety checkpoints.

For more information on MADD’s bad stats, click here:

Neoprohibitionist Agenda

MADD was founded in 1980 by Candy Lightner, whose daughter was killed by a repeat drunk-driving offender. The group’s original intention was to help victims and their families, and to raise awareness of the dangers of drunk driving.

MADD played a crucial role in educating the public about drunk driving. That hard work, coupled with greater enforcement and policies of harsher penalties in the 1980s, resulted in a decrease in alcohol-related traffic fatalities by nearly 50 percent. Drunk driving went from being socially accepted to stigmatized and unacceptable.

But, ultimately, MADD founder Lightner broke with the group, saying “[MADD] has become far more neo-prohibitionist than I had ever wanted or envisioned … I didn’t start MADD to deal with alcohol. I started MADD to deal with the issue of drunk driving.”

Today’s MADD is a far cry from what Candy Lightner started in 1980. The group is now a $45 million business that is virtually unrecognizable from the MADD of the 1980s. MADD has become an anti-alcohol organization that has found a backdoor to prohibition: in-car alcohol detectors —set at levels far below the legal limit—installed in every vehicle.

Chuck Hurley is no Candy Lightner.