The New York Times, in a front page story, peeled back a layer or two of Rick Berman’s attempts to deceive the American public about his for-profit ventures on behalf of corporations working against the public interest. The story, from reporter Eric Lipton, exposed Berman’s association with the so-called “Employment Policies Institute,” which attacks efforts to raise the minimum wage for American workers.
Readers of this blog know that this is Berman’s formula. He takes corporate money, hides the funders, dreams up an authoritative-sounding name, and runs scurrilous and often false advertising and social media campaigns to thwart progress on a range of important societal concerns. His biggest campaign, under the banner of the “Center for Consumer Freedom” and its stepchild “HumaneWatch,” is devoted to defending a wide variety of forms of animal cruelty, and to attacking The HSUS.
I’ve said it many times before, these animal abusers fund Berman anonymously not because they believe The HSUS is ineffective or spends its money unwisely, but precisely the opposite. They’ve never had to contend with a fierce and unrelenting animal advocacy organization like The HSUS — one that fights back. And they don’t like what they see in terms of what we’ve achieved in the realms of state and federal lawmaking, corporate reforms, and public awareness.
In the case of The Times piece, the Employment Policies Institute sounds like it’s some think tank. In reality, it’s nothing more than a vehicle for the same bunch of public relations, advertising, and social media operatives working with Berman at his firm. They spend their days attacking a wide range of public interest groups – today, minimum wage advocates like the Restaurant Opportunities Center, and other days, animal welfare groups like The HSUS, and those organizations fighting childhood obesity, drunk driving, and mercury in fish.
One thing the Times did not get into is that one of Berman’s spider web of phony organizations, the so-called Humane Society for Shelter Pets (HSSP), has gone belly up. Berman created the group to try to divert funds from The HSUS and distort our record. It was no surprise to us, however, that the group apparently hasn’t helped a single shelter pet but simply became another front group spewing out the usual Berman rhetoric.
We knew HSSP was doomed from the start. Sincere-minded animal advocates would never give a dime to one of Berman’s scam efforts, because it wouldn’t help a single animal. And his base of supporters, whether in the pork industry, the cockfighters or the seal-hunting community, wouldn’t want any money going to help animals – they want it all to fight The HSUS.
The initial round of funding for HSSP did have one beneficiary though: Rick Berman. He and his for-profit PR firm took in more than $765,000 in fees from this group. We are not aware of a single donation that went to an animal protection organization.
Berman continues to do his work under the banner of “non-profit organizations” which provide zero in the way of social services. They are just a set of rotating front groups for his corporately-funded smear campaigns. There’s more work to be done by The Times and other news outlets, and there’s a whole mess of work to be done by the IRS to unravel this multi-pronged self-enrichment scheme.