Richard B. Berman (born 1942) is a Washington, D.C.-based lawyer, public relations executive, and former lobbyist. Through his public affairs firm Berman and Company, Berman runs several industry-funded non-profit organizations such as the Center for Consumer Freedom, the Center for Union Facts, and the Employment Policies Institute. Berman's organizations have run numerous media campaigns on the issues of obesity, soda tax, smoking, cruelty to animals, mad cow disease, taxes, the national debt, drinking and driving, as well as the minimum wage.
Berman grew up in the Bronx borough of New York City. His father ran gas stations and car washes. Berman did general labor at these businesses on weekends and summers while growing up. He attended Transylvania University in Kentucky. After graduating from college in 1964, Berman went on to William and Mary School of Law and was class of 1967.
After law school, Berman worked as a labor law attorney for Bethlehem Steel, and from 1969 to 1972 he served as a corporate lawyer for Dana Corporation, an automotive parts company in Toledo, Ohio. From 1972 to 1974 he was employed as labor law director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C.
He moved into the food and beverage industry in 1975 under the mentorship of Norman Brinker, founder and owner of the Steak & Ale chain of restaurants. Berman started a government affairs program, launched his first PAC for Brinker, and worked there until 1984. He served as executive vice president of Pillsbury Restaurant Group from 1984 to 1986. In 1986, he formed Berman and Company. In 1991, he created the Employment Policies Institute to research entry-level work issues and argue "the importance of minimum wage jobs for the poor and uneducated." In practice, this translated to opposing minimum wage hikes on the theory that they would reduce employment.
In the 1990s, Berman was the president of Beverage Retailers Against Drunk Driving (BRADD), an organization formed to combat Mothers Against Drunk Driving. As president, he argued for "tolerance of social drinking." He has also worked as a consultant for the Minimum Wage Coalition to Save Jobs.
Berman has appeared on 60 Minutes, The Colbert Report, and CNN in support of his organizations.60 Minutes has called him "the booze and food industries' weapon of mass destruction," labor union activist Richard Bensinger gave him the nickname "Dr. Evil," and Michael Kranish of the Boston Globe dubbed him a “pioneer” in the “realm of opinion molding.” In September 2013, the Huffington Post included Berman on its list of members in “America's Ruling Class Hall of Shame."
Organizations managed by Berman
As of May 2009, Berman was the sole owner and executive director of Berman and Company, a for-profit management firm that ran fifteen corporate-funded groups, including the Center for Consumer Freedom. He has held at least sixteen positions within these interlocking organizations. As of 2010, just six of these nonprofits provided as much as 70% of Berman and Company's revenue. Bloomberg News reported that from 2008 to 2010, Berman and Company was paid $15 million from donations to his five nonprofit organizations.
Organizations founded and managed by Berman include:
- The Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF), originally named the Guest Choice Network (GCN). CCF serves as an advocate for restaurants, meat, dairy, food processors, and alcohol. The group was formed in 1995 with funding from tobacco giant Phillip Morris. CCF has challenged the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Union of Concerned Scientists, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. CCF also runs the awareness campaigns HumaneWatch and PETA Kills Animals. These campaigns raise awareness that "The Humane Society of the United States gives less than one percent of the money it raises to local pet shelters", and that "PETA kills 89% of the adoptable dogs and cats in its care". Berman's attacks on animal organizations have gained support from many individuals and organizations working in the agriculture and agribusiness sector. In March 2013, Charity Navigator issued a Donor Advisory advising that "the majority of the Center for Consumer Freedom's program expenses are being directed to its CEO Richard Berman's for-profit management company, Berman and Company."  The Chicago Tribune depicted CCF as an organization that "employs razor-sharp wit and unconventional tactics."
- The American Beverage Institute (ABI), which is opposed to laws intended to criminalize alcohol consumption, including the push to further lower existing blood-alcohol arrest thresholds. In May 2010, the Humane Society and MADD filed a complaint with the New York Commission on Public Integrity, charging that the American Beverage Institute was in fact lobbying but had failed to register with the state as lobbyists.
- The Employment Policies Institute (EPI), which is opposed to raising the minimum wage, particularly in the labor-intensive restaurant industry. TIME Magazine described EPI’s work as helping to “lay the groundwork for the minimum-wage fight in 2014.”  It points to academic studies alleging that increases in the minimum wage lead to job losses, particularly among the poor and uneducated. The reliability of EPI's research has been contested by academics including Saul D. Hoffman, professor of economics at the University of Delaware. In March 2013 Charity Navigator issued a donor advisory concerning EPI.
- The Center for Union Facts (CUF), which argues that unions are corrupt and bad for workers. They have run full-page ads in major print media outlets (New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post) blaming trade unions for the bankruptcies of American industries. The CUF website purports that it is the largest online database of labor-union reporting on salaries, budgets, and political spending. Recently, they have produced TV ads alleging intimidation by trade unions. CUF is a non-profit; 2007 federal tax returns showed revenues of $2.5 million, with $840,000 being paid to Berman and Company for management services.
Though Berman and Company does not publicly name its clients, 60 Minutes obtained a list of companies that funded the Center for Consumer Freedom in 2002. Among the parties named were The Coca-Cola Company, Tyson Foods, Outback Steakhouse, Wendy's International, Inc., Brinker International (parent company of Chili's and Macaroni Grill), Arby's, Hooters, and Red Lobster.
Some of the Berman's various critics, like The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the Restaurant Opportunities Center, have criticized Berman. HSUS has carried out its own investigations of CCF and Berman, and filed complaints about CCF with the IRS. CCF has responded by filing its own complaint with the IRS against HSUS.
Labor groups pushing to increase the minimum wage are also taking a tough line against Berman and his clients. The Restaurant Opportunities Center has taken an aggressive approach in its campaigns against Berman's base of support within the National Restaurant Association and related enterprises.
- "The Wage Warrior". TIME Magazine. March 10, 2014. Retrieved February 28, 2014.
- Website of the Center for Consumer Freedom
- Business Week magazine online, Feb 27, 2006
- USA Today article: "Got a nasty fight? Here's your man", USA Today, July 31, 2006.
- 60 Minutes episode: "Meet Rick Berman, A.K.A. Dr. Evil".
- Warner, Melanie (6/12/2005). "Striking Back at the Food Police". New York Times. Retrieved 2011-11-17.
- Lipton, Eric (9 February 2014.). Fight Over Minimum Wage Illustrates Web of Industry Ties. The New York Times. Retrieved 12 February 2014.
- NPR.org article: "Profile: Employee Freedom Action Committee".
- Richard B. Berman (1995). "RICHARD B. BERMAN (quk06c00)" (PDF). In Barbara Trach. Philip Morris (résumé). UCSF Library, Legacy Tobacco Documents Library. Archived from the original on 2002-12-09. Retrieved 2012-10-15.
- The Colbert Report - October 29, 2007: Richard Berman.
- CNN.com transcript: "CNN SUNDAY MORNING Interview With John Banzhaf, Richard Berman".
- Kranish, Michael (2013-05-19). "Washington’s robust market for attacks, half-truths". Boston Globe. Retrieved 11/4/2013.
- "America's Ruling Class Hall of Shame". Huffington Post. 2013-09-22. Retrieved 11/6/2013.
- Ken Silverstein (May 2009). "Corporate Front Man: Richard Berman manages the news on key labor-backed bill". Harper's Magazine.
- "Nonprofits Paying a For-Profit Firm". New York Times. 2010-06-17. Retrieved 2011-01-24. "Six nonprofits provide as much as 70 percent of revenues for Berman and Company. Many of the groups’ board members are current and former employees of the company."
- Drajem, Mark; Wingfield, Brian (2012-11-01). "Union Busting by Profiting From Non-Profit May Breach IRS". Bloomberg.com. Retrieved 2013-04-12.
- UCSF's Legacy Tobacco Documents Library records show an $800,000 check in December 1995 and a $200,000 check in May 1996 written to Guest Choice Network and Berman.
- Washington Post article: "The Escalating Obesity Wars: Nonprofit's Tactics, Funding Sources Spark Controversy".
- HumaneWatch.org website, maintained by the Center for Consumer Freedom.
- PETAKillsAnimals.com website, maintained by the Center for Consumer Freedom.
- "The Humane Society and big agriculture slug it out over animal rights". Riverfront Times. April 14, 2010.
- "The heartbreaking image that shows the reality of PETA's animal home: Garbage bags full of kittens killed by animal rights group". The Daily Mail. April 7, 2013.
- Martin, Andrew (8/4/2003). "Flinging mud in nation's food fight". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 11/4/2013.
- Stephanie Strom (2010-06-17). "Nonprofit Advocate Carves Out a For-Profit Niche". New York Times. Retrieved 2011-01-24. "And since nonprofit groups do not have to disclose their donors, Mr. Berman’s groups offer an even more valuable asset — anonymity for companies that would rather their customers not know they are behind certain attacks."
- "The Wage Warrior". TIME Magazine. March 10, 2014. Retrieved February 28, 2014.
- American Association of Political Consultants (1999-2013). "Past Winners". Retrieved 12/11/2013.
- The American Prospect article: "Berman's Battle".
- Mark Drajem (2013-11-07). "Latest Salvo in Feud Targets Humane Society’s Accounting". Bloomberg News. Retrieved 2014-03-01. "[CCF] submitted a complaint saying the Humane Society violated IRS rules by listing as contributions the $17.7 million value of air time for its public service announcements to promote pet adoption."
- NYT Advocacy Groups Gain Momentum
- Dr. Evil Targets Humane Society
- Critical Flier Targets Humane Society
- MSNBC Rachel Maddow interviews Richard Berman
- 60 Minutes: Meet Rick Berman, A.K.A. "Dr. Evil"
- USA Today article on Richard Berman
- Preview of BusinessWeek profile on Richard Berman
- Washington Post article
- Berman and Company website
- NYT: Nonprofit Advocate Carves Out a For-Profit Niche
- Silver Jew Strikes Back
- David Berman of Silver Jews
- Berman and Company website
- An anti-Berman website that lists his projects
- investigative report on Berman and Company by HSUS