Richard Berman

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Richard Berman
Born Richad B. Berman
1942 (age 75–76)
Occupation Lawyer, lobbyist

Richard B. Berman (born 1942) is an American lawyer, public relations executive, and former lobbyist.[1] Through his public affairs firm Berman and Company, Berman runs several industry-funded non-profit organizations such as the Center for Consumer Freedom,[2] the Center for Union Facts, and the Employment Policies Institute.[3] Berman's organizations have run numerous media campaigns concerning obesity, soda taxation, smoking, cruelty to animals, mad cow disease, taxes, the national debt, drinking and driving, as well not increasing the minimum wage. He is hired by companies to attack consumer, safety and environmental groups.[4][5][6][7]

Early life[edit]

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.[8] After graduating from college in 1964, Berman went on to William and Mary School of Law and was class of 1967.[9] His son is former Silver Jews musician David Berman, whose relationship has been estranged due to David's strong disapproval of his father's work.[10][11]


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, 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.[9]

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.[12]

In the 1990s, Berman was the president of Beverage Retailers Against Drunk Driving (BRADD), an organization formed to combat Mothers Against Drunk Driving.[12] As president, he argued for "tolerance of social drinking."[12] He has also worked as a consultant for the Minimum Wage Coalition to Save Jobs.[12]

Berman has appeared on 60 Minutes,[5] The Colbert Report,[13] and CNN[14] in support of his organizations.60 Minutes has called him "the booze and food industries' weapon of mass destruction,"[5] labor union activist Richard Bensinger gave him the nickname "Dr. Evil,"[4][5] and Michael Kranish of the Boston Globe dubbed him a “pioneer” in the “realm of opinion molding.”[15] In September 2013, the Huffington Post included Berman on its list of members in “America's Ruling Class Hall of Shame."[16]


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.[17] As of 2010, just six of these nonprofits provided as much as 70% of Berman and Company's revenue.[18] Bloomberg News reported that from 2008 to 2010, Berman and Company was paid $15 million from donations to his five nonprofit organizations.[19] Through these organizations, Berman and Company has received 60 "POLLIE Awards" since 2002 from the American Association of Political Consultants.[20]

Organizations founded and managed by Berman include:

Center for Consumer Freedom[edit]

The Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) was 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.[21][22] 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, Humane Society of the United States, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.[22] CCF also runs the awareness campaigns HumaneWatch[23] and PETA Kills Animals, which harshly criticizes the practices of HSUS and PETA, respectively.[24] 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",[25] and that "PETA kills 89% of the adoptable dogs and cats in its care".[26] Berman's attacks on animal organizations have gained support from many individuals and organizations working in the agriculture and agribusiness sector.[27] 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".[28] The Chicago Tribune depicted CCF as an organization that "employs razor-sharp wit and unconventional tactics."[29] 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,[5] Tyson Foods,[5] Outback Steakhouse,[5][30] Wendy's International, Inc.,[5] Brinker International (parent company of Chili's and Macaroni Grill), Arby's, Hooters,[30] and Red Lobster.[30]

American Beverage Institute[edit]

The American Beverage Institute (ABI) 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.[31]

Employment Policies Institute[edit]

The Employment Policies Institute (EPI) 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.” [1] 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.[7] In March 2013 Charity Navigator issued a donor advisory concerning EPI.[28]

Center for Union Facts[edit]

The Center for Union Facts (CUF) or Employee Freedom Action Committee[32] argues that unions are corrupt and bad for workers.[9] It has 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. CUF has 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.[17]

Enterprise Freedom Action Committee[edit]

The Enterprise Freedom Action Committee is a political action committee targeting Democratic candidates.[33] It is taxempt as of 2007.[34] Charity Navigator has advised that the majority of the group's expenses are payments to Berman and Company.[33] In March 2016, it became public that the group spent $315,000 on a campaign against Donald Trump. [35]


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.[36][37] CCF has responded by filing its own complaint with the IRS against HSUS.[38]

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.[39]

In a document released by The New York Times on October 30, 2014, from a talk Berman gave to the Western Energy Alliance, Berman reassured potential donors about the concern that they might be found out as a supporter of one of his organizations: "We run all of this stuff through nonprofit organizations that are insulated from having to disclose donors. There is total anonymity."[40] He also touted his "win ugly" method of personal attacks on labor union leaders, environmentalists, and others who opposed him.[41]

In a January 4, 2015 article, Salon criticized Berman as a propagandist, "a gifted translator of biz-think into the common sense of the millions".[42]

In February 3, 2015, an opinion piece in Guns Magazine passed criticism that Berman received for putting profit over principle was countered with the claim that critics have not “made that case with examples of documented unethical practices, or by refuting anything the man, who decries a government nanny state and endorses personal responsibility, claims.”[43]

Berman has responded to such criticism by stating that his groups have acted as "watchdogs who question the motivation, tactics and fundraising efforts of these powerful groups" and that targets "throw mud" instead of "debating the actual issues".[44]


  1. ^ a b "The Wage Warrior". TIME Magazine. March 10, 2014. Retrieved February 28, 2014. 
  2. ^ Website of the Center for Consumer Freedom Archived 2005-06-23 at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ Business Week magazine online, Feb 27, 2006
  4. ^ a b USA Today article: "Got a nasty fight? Here's your man", USA Today, July 31, 2006.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h 60 Minutes episode: "Meet Rick Berman, A.K.A. Dr. Evil".
  6. ^ Warner, Melanie (6/12/2005). "Striking Back at the Food Police". New York Times. Retrieved 2011-11-17.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  7. ^ a b Lipton, Eric (9 February 2014.). Fight Over Minimum Wage Illustrates Web of Industry Ties. The New York Times. Retrieved 12 February 2014.
  8. ^ Boxley, Mark (2012-01-31). "Betty Gail Brown cold case: Police have evidence, suspicions — but no resolution". KyForward. Lexington, Kentucky. Archived from the original on 2014-02-01. Retrieved 2014-06-16. The page-long entry details an encounter with a fellow Transylvania student, Richard Berman....“he remembers Betty as a very nice girl, but that it was such a long time ago that he remembers very little more than that.” 
  9. ^ a b c "Profile: Employee Freedom Action Committee". September 18, 2008
  10. ^ Sean Michaels (2009-01-26). "Silver Jews reveal cause of split: 'My father is a despicable man … a human molestor'". The Guardian. 
  11. ^ Daniel Schulman (2009-01-28). "A Silver Jew Strikes Back". Mother Jones. 
  12. ^ a b c d Richard B. Berman (1995). Barbara Trach, ed. "RICHARD B. BERMAN (quk06c00)". Philip Morris (résumé). UCSF Library, Legacy Tobacco Documents Library. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2002-12-09. Retrieved 2012-10-15. 
  13. ^ The Colbert Report - October 29, 2007: Richard Berman.
  14. ^ transcript: "CNN SUNDAY MORNING Interview With John Banzhaf, Richard Berman".
  15. ^ Kranish, Michael (2013-05-19). "Washington's robust market for attacks, half-truths". Boston Globe. Retrieved 11/4/2013.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  16. ^ "America's Ruling Class Hall of Shame". Huffington Post. 2013-09-22. Retrieved 11/6/2013.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  17. ^ a b Ken Silverstein (May 2009). "Corporate Front Man: Richard Berman manages the news on key labor-backed bill". Harper's Magazine. 
  18. ^ "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. 
  19. ^ Drajem, Mark; Wingfield, Brian (2012-11-01). "Union Busting by Profiting From Non-Profit May Breach IRS". Retrieved 2013-04-12. 
  20. ^ American Association of Political Consultants (1999–2013). "Past Winners". Retrieved 12/11/2013.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  21. ^ 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.
  22. ^ a b Washington Post article: "The Escalating Obesity Wars: Nonprofit's Tactics, Funding Sources Spark Controversy".
  23. ^ website, maintained by the Center for Consumer Freedom.
  24. ^ website, maintained by the Center for Consumer Freedom.
  25. ^ "The Humane Society and big agriculture slug it out over animal rights". Riverfront Times. April 14, 2010. 
  26. ^ "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. 
  27. ^
  28. ^ a b "Charity Navigator: Donor Advisory". Charity Navigator. 2013-03-02. Retrieved 2013-04-12. 
  29. ^ Martin, Andrew (8/4/2003). "Flinging mud in nation's food fight". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 11/4/2013.  Check date values in: |access-date=, |date= (help)
  30. ^ a b c Berman's Battle Archived December 5, 2010, at the Wayback Machine."The American Prospect".
  31. ^ 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. 
  32. ^ Daniel Schulman Dr. Evil's Payday How PR op Richard Berman's "economic literacy" nonprofit spun payday loans into gold. Mother Jones, September/October 2009
  33. ^ a b Kate Sheppard Donor Advisory Group Flags Berman Nonprofits Mother Jones, 5 April 2013
  34. ^ Enterprise Freedom Action Committee Dark Money stories, Campaign 2012, ProPublica, retrieved 21 March 2016
  35. ^ Independent Expenditures, Communication Costs and Coordinated Expenses as of March 21, 2016 The Center for Responsive Politics, March 21, 2016
  36. ^
  37. ^
  38. ^ 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. 
  39. ^ The New York Times
  40. ^
  41. ^ Lipton, Eric (October 31, 2014). "Hard-Nosed Advice From Veteran Lobbyist: 'Win Ugly or Lose Pretty'". The New York Times. pp. A19. Retrieved 2014-11-01. 
  42. ^ Frank, Thomas (4 January 2015). "Chain restaurants are killing us: Billiionaire bankers, minimum-wage toilers and the nasty truth about fast-food nation". Salon Magazine. Retrieved 27 January 2015. 
  43. ^ Codrea Exclusive: “Green Decoys” Lure Sportsmen Into Deceptive Trap Guns Magazine, Rights watch, 3 February 2015
  44. ^ Berman Facts Retrieved 8 August 2016.  Missing or empty |title= (help)