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Heard on the Hill: K Street, Schmay Street

Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns describes his latest project as a series about the most effective lobbying campaign in American history.

“Prohibition,” a three-part documentary by Burns and Lynn Novick that began airing Sunday on PBS, traces the rise and fall of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, taking a look at its effect on history and the people who made it happen along the way.

“The Anti-Saloon League was the most powerful political lobbying organization in the history of the United States, and nobody knows about it,” Burns tells Roll Call. “Its general counsel, Wayne B. Wheeler, made the Anti-Saloon League the single most effective single-issue lobbying campaign in history. He could make the Senate of the United States sit up and beg; he was witheringly effective.”

No matter where you come down on the alcohol issue, Burns suggests viewers should expect to see parallels between what transpired back then and what’s happening now.

“It feels like it’s ripped from today’s headlines. It’s about a whole group of people who feel like they’ve lost control of their country and they want to take it back,” Burns says.

The Center for Alcohol Policy, which was founded by the National Beer Wholesalers Association, partnered with WETA to sponsor the series.

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