Berman & Company
Berman & Company are a public relations firm, based in Washington D.C and founded by Rick Berman. They are known for a hard-hitting, often considered aggressive, approach against an over regulated and nanny state society and the decline of choice.
The issues they mainly oppose are regulations on what we eat, driving regulations and how much we earn and through the use of 'not-for-profit' groups attack research from groups who use scare tactics on the public.
Rick Berman is known as Dr. Evil and a hitman for corporate America.
Berman & Company use affiliated not-for-profit groups, who are run by charitable donations on their websites, usually by companies who have them representing their interests, to 'educate' the American population against the scaremongering tactics used by watchdogs and report makers who influence the government and drive the government to satisfy the 'artificial public need'. They are predominantly against unions, trial lawyers, food police and animal rights activists who all seek to regulate our lives.
They use the tactic of finding small facts in campaigns and research to discredit it. Berman in particular highlights and opposes; Mothers Against Drunk Driving no longer being run by mothers, PETA killing animals in its care and the danger of mercury in tuna being overly hyped.
- "Screw" your enemy. Berman boasted about his obsession with unions and his attack on their efforts to raise the minimum wage for American workers: "I get up every morning and I try and figure out how to screw with the labor unions."
- "Marginalize" your opponents. Berman described his tactics against public interest groups: "wherever possible I like to use humor to minimize or marginalize the people on the other side."
- "Demolish the moral authority" of powerful public interest voices: "I got George McGovern to come out and say that unions were wrong. I represent some alcohol companies, I got Candy Lightner, who started Mothers Against Drunk Driving, to come out and say that MADD was overreaching and that she endorsed our position, our client position, rather than the MADD position. That is a demolishing of moral authority."
- "Make it personal." Berman's associate Hubbard described how they go after concerned citizens who dare to challenge their clients: "we do have a section on every single activist. Their rap sheets, their criminal records they have. We're really making this personal. We're trying to make it so they don't have any credibility with the public, with the media, or with the legislators."
- "Brand" whole movements as "not credible." Berman & Co. detailed their game plan to try to marginalize people concerned about fracking, as noted by Bloomberg media: "what we wanted to do is that we wanted to brand the entire movement behind this as not being credible, and anti-science."
- Being "nasty" wins. Berman shakes off concerns that his activities are too nasty or aggressive, saying "you can either win ugly or lose pretty."
- Push "fear and anger." Berman talked about pushing people's emotional buttons on fear, love, anger, greed, and sympathy, stating: "you could not get into people's heads and convince them to do something as easily as you could get into their hearts or into their gut to convince to do something. Because, emotions drive people much better than intellectual epiphanies."
- Treat public policy as "endless war." Berman recognized that the public interest groups are appealing to the American people: "If you think about it these groups, the Sierra Club, who is the natural enemy of the Sierra Club? Who is the enemy of Greenpeace? You know at the surface, you would love to be a group like that because everyone should be in favor of you, who could be against you? That's very difficult to over come and they play on that, and they trade on that, and that's our opportunity and also our challenge. So it is an endless war."
- Give corporate cash "total anonymity." Berman reassured his audience that he can keep their role in these tactics secret: "We run all of this stuff through nonprofit organizations that are insulated from having to disclose donors. There is total anonymity. People don't know who supports us. We've been doing this for 20 something years in this regard. And to the degree to anybody is concerned about that I will tell you there are all sorts of ways, all sorts of firewalls that have been established to get this done on an anonymous basis." He added: "I am religious about not allowing company names to ever get used. At least I'm not going to allow them to get used. And I don't want companies to ever admit that because it does give the other side a way to diminish our message."
- Tear down celebrities who speak out. Berman's associate Hubbard noted that taking down celebrities who speak up is a key part of their strategy because: "the problem is that the public really does have a celebrity worship culture. But the good news is that there is nothing the public likes more than tearing down celebrities and playing up the hypocrisy angle."
- Center for Consumer Freedom, originally named the Guest Choice Network until 2001. CCF was set up in 1995, tobacco man Phillip Morris providing $600,000 seed money to get it started as Phillip Morris USA Inc. needed a consultant who was both a "hospitality industry insider as well as a legislatively astute individual", records show Philip Morris continued to give money to the group for many years. In an article by PRWatch it was claimed CCF's main sponsors are; Brinker International, RTM Restaurant Group, Tyson Foods Inc., HMSHost Corp., and Wendy's International Inc. The company is billed as a not-for-profit organisation who oppose 'false food' information and want to the warn the public that they have "been force-fed a steady diet of obesity myths by the 'food police,' trial lawyers, and even our own government" and how the war against obesity is mainly lawyers cashing in on the problem. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group funded by several educational foundations, asked the Internal Revenue Service to revoke CCF's tax exempt status on the basis that Berman is using the company to funnel money to himself and Berman & Company, something that Berman says isn't unusual. CCF have criticised groups including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and Activistcash.com, a website funded by CCF, write profiles on groups including Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Berman says his aim is to expose the violent side of these groups and shut down any whose activities run counter to their goals. In 2004 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had a report published in many national newspapers claiming obesity has lead to around 400,000 deaths, CCF did their own research and criticised the report by the CDC, claiming there has only been 112,000 deaths and that the CDC should reveal their workings and how they got it so wrong.
- American Beverage Institute is a group set up in 1991 who oppose restrictions on alcohol use.
- Employment Policies Institute was founded in 1991 it focuses on entry-level employment, in particularly arguing, on behalf of the restaurant owners who fund Berman & Company, against creating a minimum wage as it would hit the restaurant owners' profits hugely.  In 2013, scholars at the University of California, Berkeley released a study finding that low wages in the fast food industry cost taxpayers $7 billion every year in social supports subsidise salaries of low-income workers, this report was criticised by The "Austin Business Journal" and the "Miami Herald", amongst others, who used information from the EPI to discredit the methodology of the report and the report's numbers. The EPI also seem to benefit by sharing the abbreviation as the reputable Economic Policy Institute.
- Center for Union Facts are a group that "fights for transparency and accountability in America’s labor movement".
Berman's model has influenced Britain's leading cigarette manufacturers. Action on Consumer Choice have made no secret that they wish to use the same tactics as the Center for Consumer Freedom, with Simon Clark of Freedom of the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco, the tobacco-funded body behind Action on Consumer Choice saying "his principal strategy appears to be: destroy your opponent’s credibility before they destroy yours", “consumers who believe in choice and personal responsibility must have a voice” and “With a few tweaks for a UK audience, I can’t think of a better model than Rick Berman’s Centre for Consumer Freedom.”
In 2003, through a whistleblower, the Center for Media & Democracy were able to obtain a list of donations received by the Center for Consumer Freedom. It includes $200,000 apiece from Coca-Cola, Excel/Cargill, Monsato, Tyson Foods and Wendy's International, $164,00 from Outback Steakhouse and $100,000 from Pilgrim's Pride Corporation.
The full list is available here Donations for the Center for Consumer Freedom.
Publications, Contact, Resources and Notes
- Address: 1090 Vermont Avenue, NW
- Suite 800
- Washington, DC 20005
- Phone: 202.463.7100
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: http://www.bermanco.com/
- Meet Rick Berman aka Dr Evil CBS News, broadcast 8 April 2007, accessed 17 November 2014
- Lisa Graves Rick Berman Exposed in New Audio; Hear His Tactics against Environmentalists and Workers Rights PR Watch, 30 October 2014
- Nonprofits Paying a For-Profit Firm The New York Times, 17 June 2010, accessed 17 November 2014
- Caroline E. Mayer and Amy Joyce The Escalating Obesity Wars The Washington Post, 27 April 2005, accessed 17 November 2014
- About us American Beverage Institute, accessed 17 November 2014
- Eric Lipton Fight Over Minimum Wage Illustrates Web of Industry Ties The New York Times, 9 February 2014, accessed 17 November 2014
- about epi Employment Policies Institute, accessed 17 November 2014
- Lisa Graves Corporate America’s new scam: Industry P.R. firm poses as think tank! Salon, 13 November 2013, accessed 17 November 2014
- About us Union Facts, accessed 17 November 2014
- Jamie Doward Tobacco firms adopt tactics of ‘Dr Evil’ in battle against tougher regulation The Guardian, 1 November 2014, accessed 17 November 2014
- Sheldon Rampton "Consumer Freedom's" Corporate Funding Exposed PR Watch, 1 July 2003, accessed 17 November 2014