Anybody acquainted at all with my work mus know how gleefully I responded to this segment from the Rachel Maddow show. While I haven’t yet read Last Call, the book touted in the segment, I’ve read a number of other works on the Anti-Saloon League and their relentless advocacy of Prohibition at the state and national levels.
We should all remember one factor that made their fight especially powerful. The Anti-Saloon League touted itself as a public education organization. It fought against attempts to regulate it as a political committee under state and federal law. On the other side of the issue? Brewers. Which were . . . wait for it . . . corporations! Barred at the federal level from making contributions under the Tillman Act of 1907, and likewise prevented from making contributions under a host of copy-cat state laws. In fact, the case holding the Tillman Act constitutional arose out of the prosecution of Pennsylvania brewers fighting back against prohibition (see U.S. v. U.S. Brewers Assoc., 239 Fed 163 (W.D. Pa. 1916—I’d link to it if I could).
It wasn’t a fair fight for a lot of reasons. Brewers were disproportionately German. Germany wasn’t so popular at the time. BUT the uneven restrictions on political activity certainly didn’t help.