Monday, October 5, 2009

Bringin' out the big guns

Richard Berman, "Dr. Evil," the food industry's "hired gun"

What does it mean when a company or lobbying group hires Richard Berman?
USAToday: "Companies hire Richard Berman to be their public face as they take on what are sure to be unpopular battles."

CBS, 60 Minutes, Meet Rick Berman, A.K.A. "Dr. Evil":  "Berman’s the booze and food industry’s 6'4", 64-year-old weapon of mass destruction. They hire him to front for them in the 'food wars.'"
He's a "a hired gun."
No matter what you think about this successful PR man, Berman has a habit of achieving his goal, which is "getting people to think twice." (source: Meet Rick Berman)

>>How does he do it?
He owns/runs through the for-profit Berman & Company, which is the umbrella company housing over a dozen companies, some non-profit, through which he channels his messages.  Among them: Center for Consumer Freedom, American Beverage Institute, Center for Union Facts.  See the Wikipedia article on Berman for more specifics on each.  Another source for information, however scathing it may be: Berman Exposed.)  These companies take donations from various industry giants, whose interests they support with various press releases, advertisements, etc.  If you take the Center for Consumer Freedom as an example: In addition to "anonymous donations," they take in large sums of money annually from everyone from Coca-Cola, to Tyson's Chicken, to Wendy's fast food chain, and many many more. And as mentioned in a previous blog, this particular non-profit started with S600,000 in seed money from tobacco giant Philip Morris.

>>Something seems fishy here. 
But since this man was trained in law and certainly no novice in PR campaigns,  it can be assumed that he runs a tight ship (from the perspective of legal codes): but, ok bear with the simple-minded American with no legal training for a sec:  how can a non-profit first of all take in millions through donations, and secondly be run by a corporate for-profit umbrella company (whose sole owner, R. Berman, is a very wealthy man indeed)?  Legal loop holes, i guess. 

The status non-profit is justified by CCF on their 990 tax form with the following as the company's stated purpose:

>>What are some efforts in which he played a role? 
Berman's companies have been engaged in efforts to combat groups such as MADD, PETA, major labor unions, and a variety of environmentalist and medical/nutrition-oriented groups; they have fought both raising minimum wage and the Americans with Disabilities Act (on the grounds that both are just too expensive for employers), supported Uniroyal's Alar; supported companies like PayDayLoans;  engaged in a campaign to suggest that the Environmental Protection Agency's "safe levels" of mercury contained in fish is too low; worked to combat smoking bans in bars and protect the rights of smokers (and of course protecting the bottom line of Big Tobacco in the process), and they have also fought the lowering of the legal blood alcohol limits; the list goes on.

>>And Berman's latest:

See also the television ad:

"Bizarrely maligned by what amounts to an urban myth"...  only a real pro could come up with a statement like that!

>>Now back to the original question: 

What does it mean when a company or lobbying group hires Richard Berman?

It means that they realize the sophomoric efforts in which they have engaged to defend their interests have not worked; they need to pull out the big gun: Richard Berman. 

Is it just me or is the Corn Refiners Association starting to look ever more like Big Tobacco?

Additional sources used for background research: (source used for the 990 information) (kind of funny that Marion Nestle is no fan of CCF because they cite HER as the primary authority in support of HFCS.)


  1. hahahahahaha

    I happened upon what may be the funniest thing ever:

    Myth: High fructose corn syrup causes cannibalism.

    Reality: There is no scientific evidence of a positive correlation between high fructose corn syrup and cannibalism. Quite the contrary, Dr. Fleug of the University of Hamburg has studied the link between high fructose corn syrup and cannibalism. In his study, he found that the control group, the group not fed HFCS, had a higher incidence of cannibalism than the group which was fed HFCS. Additionally, there are many possible causes of cannibalism and these causes are not easily isolated. For instance, zombification, fruit, unicorns and the US tax code are all possible causes of cannibalism. If you filed taxes or had fruit, you could be a cannibal and not know it.

    Myth: HFCS is made from puppies.

    Reality: Actually, HFCS is made from kittens.

    Myth: High fructose corn syrup is high in fructose.

    Reality: As a matter of fact, the H in HFCS does not mean “high” but “holy”. HFCS is full of godly goodness. Those who oppose the addition of HFCS in food items are not only unchristian but also hate freedom. They are unamerican and communists, and probably are cannibals too.

    Myth: HFCS is made from kittens.

    Reality: Actually, HFCS is made from puppies.

    Myth: High fructose corn syrup is the sweetest substance known to us.

    Reality: The perpetually happy, “think positive” new age types are sweeter than high fructose corn syrup. They taste like peach cobbler while the rest of the population tastes like chicken.

    Editor: How do you know what people taste like?

    HFCS Executive: We were members of the control group in Dr. Fleug’s study on HFCS and cannibalism.


    This blogger has posted additional information about Richard Berman, including a picture of his house, valued at over $3 million.