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Press reports link beer industry contributions to .08 vote in Louisiana.

Associated Press--Groups pushing a bill to lower Louisiana's drunken driving threshold thought they had state Rep. Bob Marionneaux's promise not to oppose it. Now they think they know why he voted against the bill to make a blood-alcohol level of .08 the legal limit for drunk drivers, creating a tie that kept the bill from moving to the House floor.

The tie left .10 the level considered legal evidence that someone is driving drunk.

A beer industry group gave Marionneaux's campaign $2,000 on May 20, the day of the 6-6 vote in the House Criminal Justice Committee. "I think that helps explain why he didn't honor his word to us," said Cathy Childers, state director for Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

She and Col. Jim Champagne, executive director of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission, both said Marionneaux promised personally not to oppose the bill.

Marionneaux, who resigned his House seat to run for the Senate and is in a Nov. 20 runoff against Tim Johnson, says he never promised anybody anything about the bill.

He said he did not know he got the check the day of the vote. Campaign finance records show that the Business Affairs Research Program's donation was one of 16 checks he received that day. "There must have been a fund-raiser that day," he said last week.

The business program shares an address with the Beer Industry League of Louisiana; league director George Brown said it is made up of beer wholesalers who pool money for campaign donations and educational efforts.

He said there was no link between Marionneaux's vote and the contribution: "We don't buy votes. We try to help people at election time."

The group was formed six to eight years ago and gave $48,000 to $64,000 to a variety of candidates this election season, Brown said.

State campaign finance laws require registration of any group which spends at least $500 in one election year and has the "primary purpose" of supporting or opposing candidates or ballot propositions.

Campaign Finance Committee attorney Maris McCrory said the Business Affairs Research Program is not registered as a campaign committee. Groups that do not register are subject to fines.

Marionneaux said earlier this year that he opposed the .08 limit, but voted for stiffer penalties for drivers caught with blood-alcohol levels of .15 and higher as a better way of getting drunks off the highways.

Incumbent state Rep. Audrey McCain, D-Plaquemine, also voted against .08 on May 20.

Her re-election campaign received $1,000 from the Business Affairs Research Program on March 29 and another $500 on Aug. 10. Brown donated $2,500 to her on Oct. 27.

"Never has a campaign contribution been related to a specific vote or issue," McCain said Friday.

Voting records show that Marionneaux voted for a .08 bill in the House during a 1998 special session.

He said this year's vote was based on his courtroom experience and committee testimony.

Marionneaux said earlier this year that he opposed the .08 limit, but voted for stiffer penalties for drivers caught with blood-alcohol levels of .15 and higher as a better way of getting drunks off the highways.
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Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Geographic Code:1U7LA
Date:Nov 22, 1999
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