Category Archives: Rick Berman

Rick Berman: He’s Baaaaack!

Ah, Rick Berman. A professional propagandist so nice, I’ve got an entire tag devoted to his shenanigans.

Whatcha been up to, Rick? How’s the astroturf growing around your neck of the woods? Made any speeches lately, maybe made a few enemies here and there? Why yes, you have:

WASHINGTON — If the oil and gas industry wants to prevent its opponents from slowing its efforts to drill in more places, it must be prepared to employ tactics like digging up embarrassing tidbits about environmentalists and liberal celebrities, a veteran Washington political consultant told a room full of industry executives in a speech that was secretly recorded.

The blunt advice from the consultant, Richard Berman, the founder and chief executive of the Washington-based Berman & Company consulting firm, came as Mr. Berman solicited up to $3 million from oil and gas industry executives to finance an advertising and public relations campaign called Big Green Radicals.

The company executives, Mr. Berman said in his speech, must be willing to exploit emotions like fear, greed and anger and turn them against the environmental groups. And major corporations secretly financing such a campaign should not worry about offending the general public because “you can either win ugly or lose pretty,” he said.

“Think of this as an endless war,” Mr. Berman told the crowd at the June event in Colorado Springs, sponsored by the Western Energy Alliance, a group whose members include Devon Energy, Halliburton and Anadarko Petroleum, which specialize in extracting oil and gas through hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. “And you have to budget for it.”

What Mr. Berman did not know — and what could now complicate his task of marginalizing environmental groups that want to impose limits on fracking — is that one of the energy industry executives recorded his remarks and was offended by them.

So in other words, Al Gore is REALLY fat. Nice.

People like Rick Berman are what’s wrong with America. They are breeding grounds for cynicism and apathy. And that’s the point: the more disillusioned people are, the more likely they are to do things like sit out elections, not stay informed, not get involved. “They’re all the same,” those people say — because people like Rick Berman told them that.

What a horrible person.

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Nashville Scene Calls Out Tennessean On Berman Propaganda

Well this should be fun! Our own Nashville Scene has called out The Tennessean for repeatedly running “op-eds” by corporate sockpuppets working for D.C. PR man Rick Berman. The piece includes a nice shout-out to yours truly, too. {blushes}

I’ve written about The Tennessean’s epic fail before, notably here and here. In May 2010 after they ran a column by Berman employee David Martosko, I wrote:

This is now the third time The Tennessean has fallen for Rick Berman’s propaganda game. Back in February they ran an anti-MADD Tennessee Voices column by “Sarah Longwell,” who fronts several of Rick Berman’s phony organizations, including the restaurant industry-funded American Beverage Institute.


[…]

Okay, Tennessean. Will the third time be the charm or is there going to be a fourth incident before your Opinion page editors learn how to hit the Google?

Sadly, there was a fourth time: this column by “J. Justin Wilson” against a plastic bag ban ran back in January. Wilson is identified as “Senior Research Analyst at the Center for Consumer Freedom.” For the record, I haven’t heard of any serious campaign to ban plastic bags in Nashville. Maybe I missed the story.

Let’s meet young Mr. Wilson, shall we? According to the CREW wesbite Berman Exposed, he’s a busy fellow. In addition to his Center for Consumer Freedom duties Wilson is also:

• Senior Research Analyst, Berman and Company
• Managing Director, Center for Union Facts
• Senior Research Fellow, Employment Policies Institute
• Managing Director, Employee Freedom Action Committee
• Senior Research Analyst, Employment Policies Institute

My, what a lot of hats Mr. Wilson wears! In fact, the only Wilson hat that fits is one: sockpuppet for Rick Berman’s corporate clients.

At this point I have to think The Tennessean is a willing participant in a dirty propaganda game. It’s a game which allows major corporations to present themselves as shiny-sparkly good corporate citizens, while at the same time financing an under the table PR war attacking environmentalists, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the Humane Society of the United States, and other “do-good” organizations which embarrass Corporate America.

Thanks for playing along, Tennessean.

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Filed under Rick Berman, The Tennessean

Liberal Media Fail, NPR Edition

Apparently no one told NPR’s Jeff Brady at All Things Considered that the offshore oil drilling moratorium affects just 33 rigs operating in deep water. Well they did — but that didn’t stop him from spewing oil industry propaganda. On tonight’s All Things Considered, he buys the oil industry’s bullshit propaganda hook, line and sinker. First we have the headline:

Small Businesses May Sink Under Drilling Hiatus

That’s some lovely fearmongering. Then we have this:

There’s a sign in front of Delmar Systems’ headquarters in Broussard, La., that reads “Mr. Obama you should not eliminate our jobs.”

If the current moratorium continues it could hit Delmar especially hard. The bulk of the company’s business is anchoring and mooring semi-submersible drilling rigs. If there are no rigs drilling in the Gulf — there’s nothing to anchor. So, it’s a little surprising how much activity there is in Delmar’s shop these days.

Yes, surprising, isn’t it? Why is that? Maybe it’s because the moratorium, I repeat, affects just 33 rigs doing exploratory drilling in water deeper than 500 feet.

Jesus.

Then we have this:

“We figure that for every deepwater well, there’s about 1,400 jobs affected,” says Randall Luthi, president of the National Ocean Industries Association.

Currently 33 rigs are idled — by Luthi’s calculation that’s more than 45,000 jobs hanging in the balance. Luthi says the bulk of those workers are employed not by the big names in the oil industry, but by companies like Delmar.

Well by all means let’s take Luthi’s calculation as gospel, why don’t we. Your entire business is predicated on 33 rigs when there are thousands operating in the Gulf of Mexico? Sounds like a bad business plan to me.

Okay, so who is NOIA? According to their website:

NOIA’s mission is to secure reliable access and a fair regulatory and economic environment for the companies that develop the nation’s valuable offshore energy resources in an environmentally responsible manner. NOIA members include producers of oil and natural gas, renewable energy, contractors, marine engineers, service and supply companies and others with an interest in producing energy from the nation’s outer continental shelf.

Oh, okay. In other words, an industry group. A trade group. Fair enough. Does NPR’s Jeff Brady tell you that? No he does not. They never do. Like how last month NPR’s April Fulton quoted “Justin Wilson” from the “Center For Consumer Freedom,” one of DC lobbyist Rick Berman’s many phony front groups. Wilson is a busy guy, holding lots of titles with lots of different fake “consumer groups,” all funded by Rick Berman. Did NPR’s April Fulton tell you that? No she did not.

Brady repeats the oil industry talking point thusly:

Some of the companies likely won’t survive a six-month moratorium. Luthi says that’ll lead to more consolidation in the industry and less competition — something he thinks will hurt his industry in the long run.

Oh I have a sad. Oh wait. No, I don’t. Maybe Jeff Brady needs to take this up with all of the tourism and fishing folks who really are suffering right now. Most of them didn’t just lose 33 points of business while thousands of others chug merrily along. These really are small businesses. Take it up with the mom-and-pop shrimp and oyster shacks which have been put out of business. Or New Orleans’ 134-year-old P&J Oyster House , shuttered by the BP oil spill.

Honestly, this is why I go nuts when people tell me that NPR is somehow the “liberal” equivalent of FOX News. No, it’s not. They don’t spew anything close to Democratic Party propaganda in the same way FOX spews Republican Party propaganda. Most of NPR’s programming is cultural, like “My Front Porch” and stories on obscure African drumming ensembles in Zimbabwe. There’s no political slant in that. And when they do cover news, it’s poorly done.

This is why I don’t give you people money.

Hey Jeff Brady, maybe next time instead of just buying the oil industry’s sad tale of woe, you might try checking with someone else, too. Just to give your piece a little, ya know, balance.

Adding …. And one more thing, because I didn’t have time to research it earlier: I know we’re all supposed to worship at the altar of the “small business” these days, but Delmar Systems apparently has 200 employees and annual revenues of $10.9 million. That might technically qualify as “small” by Small Business Administration standards, but it’s pretty gigantic compared to some of the truly small operations now shut down by the oil spill. People like Vicki Guillot, owner of Debbie’s Cafe, or Tarek Tay, owner of Catch Seafood Pub, both shuttered by the spill. Or people like Cassie Cox, who rents beach umbrellas. Or any of the hundreds of tiny little shrimp shacks and oyster outfits catering to tourists in the summer.

Jeff Brady and the people at Delmar Systems need to talk to these folks and see if anyone is crying for them right now.

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Filed under Gulf oil spill, media, NPR, Rick Berman

Rick Berman Fools The Tennessean For 3rd Time

Oh, Tennessean. Your gullibility would be laughable were it not so very appalling. Seriously, what does this say about your reputation that a D.C. lobbyist has managed to fool you not once, not twice, but three times in one six month period? Somewhere on K street a corporate lobbyist is laughing his ass off at you.

On Thursday I posted a blog item about D.C. corporate lobbyist/professional astroturfer Rick Berman and his staff of sock puppets, namely David Martosko.

On Friday, The Tennessean runs a “Tennessee Voices” column by, you guessed it, David Martosko, attacking the HSUS. Yes that would be the same HSUS that just filed an ethics complaint against Martosko’s employer Rick Berman. Timing is everything, isn’t it?

The Tennessean of course identified Martosko as:

…director of research at the Center for Consumer Freedom, a nonprofit watchdog group that deals with activities of tax-exempt activist groups.

Hah! I think I’ve already covered that ground but for those who haven’t been paying attention (ahem, Gannett employees!) that’s a bit of a stretch. It’s a more like an industry front group, funded by Cargill, Tyson Foods, Coca-Cola, Monsanto, and others. From Wikipedia:

IRS records show that in 2007, the CCF paid more than $1.5 million to Berman and Company for “research, communications, and other services.”[25] Both the Center for Consumer Freedom and American Beverage Institute are managed by and share facilities with Berman and Company,[26] a public affairs firm owned by lobbyist Richard Berman and also associated with Center for Union Facts.

This is now the third time The Tennessean has fallen for Rick Berman’s propaganda game. Back in February they ran an anti-MADD Tennessee Voices column by “Sarah Longwell,” who fronts several of Rick Berman’s phony organizations, including the restaurant industry-funded American Beverage Institute.

But wait, there’s more. In December 2009, The Tennessean ran an anti-minimum wage op-ed by “Kristen Lopez Eastlick,” identified as “senior economic analyst at the Employment Policies Institute.” Eastlick is a very busy lady:

Kristen Lopez Eastlick has been listed in many different capacities for nearly all of Berman & Company’s front groups. She has been cited as everything from director of policy analysis to chief administrative officer, and has been linked to the Center for Consumer Freedom, the American Beverage Institute, the Employment Policy Institute, the Center for Economic and Entrepreneurial Literacy, Activist Cash, and the Employee Freedom Action Committee. Eastlick is a frequent editorial writer and Berman spokesperson.

Okay, Tennessean. Will the third time be the charm or is there going to be a fourth incident before your Opinion page editors learn how to hit the Google?

And they say the internet killed the newspaper business. Yeah, right. Looks like a suicide to me.

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Filed under astroturfing, media, Rick Berman, The Tennessean

Fighting Back Against Rick Berman

Well, looks like someone is finally firing back against D.C. lobbyist/professional corporate astroturfer Rick Berman:

Mothers Against Drunk Driving and The HSUS File Ethics Complaint Against Rick Berman

Groups allege American Beverage Institute violated N.Y. law

Two of the nation’s leading public interest charities — Mothers Against Drunk Driving and The Humane Society of the United States — formally asked the New York State Commission on Public Integrity on Tuesday to open an investigation into illegal lobbying by Washington lobbyist Rick Berman and one of his many corporate front groups, the American Beverage Institute.

The complaint alleges that Berman and ABI violated New York state’s lobbying law. The Lobbying Act requires every lobbyist who spends more than $5,000 on lobbying activities to register and report their activities to the Commission. The complaint alleges ABI violated the law by failing to register and report lobbying activities, including expenditures in excess of $70,000. ABI spent more than $70,000 to purchase and publish advertisements to influence and defeat pending legislation intended to make roadways safer by cracking down on recidivism by convicted DWI offenders.

ABI is run by Washington-based lobbyist Richard Berman, who oversees a network of tax-exempt organizations that serve private business interests by attacking advocacy organizations deemed a threat to the profitability of Berman’s alcohol, tobacco, agribusiness and fast-food clients.

I first got hip to Rick Berman during the healthcare reform debate when his astroturf group “Committee To Rethink Reform” started running ads in Tennessee.

Wonder if he registered as a lobbyist in Tennessee? I’m thinking … not. Might be something for some folks to look into.

Berman is a stealth lobbyist. His sock puppets blanket local media with op-eds, masquerading as experts at dummy “non-profit groups” given impressive names. Most media outlets appear to have been duped (including our own Gannett fishwrap). Berman employee David Martosko, tasked with targeting HSUS and PETA, has been making the rounds of ag publications like “CattleNetwork.com” and The Modesto Bee, which all quote Martosko as a representative of “The Center for Consumer Freedom” (heck, Martosko has even given testimony to the U.S. Senate). Indeed, Martosko’s Twitter feed is a vertiable index of media gullibility.

None of these publications mention that the Center for Consumer Freedom is another one of Berman’s phony front groups and David Martosko is its chief sockpuppet.

It’s all so sleazy. Kinda makes you wonder: if the industries hiring Rick Berman had a leg to stand on, why resort to the subterfuge? Why the astroturfing and the sock puppetry?

According to Berman Exposed:

David Martosko has served as director of research for Berman & Company and its front group the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) since 2001. He is a frequent spokesperson and editorial writer for both organizations. He previously served as a senior research analyst for the Berman front group Guest Choice Network, which later rebranded as CCF. Frequently cited as a scientific and economic expert, Martosko received his graduate degree in opera from the Peabody Conservatory of Music at Johns Hopkins University in 1995.

When called on this blatant dishonesty back in 2006 Martosko responded:

David Martosko: “Welcome to Washignton. This is the way things tend to be done here.”

Hmmm.

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Filed under astroturfing, Rick Berman

The Tennessean Got Duped–AGAIN

Someone needs to clue in the editors of our local Gannett fishwrap about a little something called professional sock-puppetry. Because they keep falling for it.

For example, who is this Sarah Longwell person who penned an anti-MADD column for the “Tennessee Voices” section of The Tennessean back in February?

Just another PR professional on the staff of D.C. lobbyist Rick Berman:

Short Bio: Sarah Longwell works in public relations for Berman & Company, listed as the principal media contact for the Center for Consumer Freedom, the Center for Union Facts, and the Indoor Tanning Association. She is also listed as both the managing director and communications director of the American Beverage Institute. Longwell has written many editorial pieces on behalf of these industry-funded front groups and often serves as a media spokesperson. She previously served as the director of communications at the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, a nonprofit organization that works to spread the conservative message on college campuses.

Of course, this isn’t the first time a Rick Berman PR employee has sock-puppeted for a client in the pages of The Tennessean by hiding behind a non-existent non-profit. Back on December 23, 2009, Kristen Lopez Eastlick slammed the minimum wage increase in an opinion piece in our daily, which identified her as “senior economic analyst at the Employment Policies Institute” (the column has been pulled, but you can read a copy of it here.)

But there is no such organization as the “Employment Policies Institute.” It’s another phony group established by lobbyist Rick Berman, no more than a website. Eastlick, like Sarah Longwell, is an employee of Rick Berman’s. In addition to being the “senior economic analyst at the Employment Policies Institute” she also holds the titles of

• Chief Administrative Officer, Berman and Company
• Senior Research Analyst, Employment Policies Institute
• Government Affairs Director, Berman and Company
• Government Affairs Director, Center for Consumer Freedom
• Director of State Affairs, American Beverage Institute
• Spokesperson, American Beverage Institute
• Lobbyist, American Beverage Institute
• Chief Administration Officer, American Beverage Institute
• Director of Policy Analysis, Employment Policies Institute
• Spokesperson, Employment Policies Institute
• Economic Analyst, Employment Policies Institute
• Senior Research Analyst, Activist Cash

… in other words, whatever best fits the needs of the moment to better dupe the clueless reporter/opinion page editor/producer, etc. And it’s all on behalf of Berman & Co. clients which include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Philip Morris, Smithfield Foods, Coca-Cola, Wendy’s, Tyson’s Foods, Cargill, and Outback Steakhouse (to name a few).

So, way to go Tennessean. Here’s some advice for you: before you run any “Tennessee Voices” columns from people named Sarah Kapenstein, David Martosko, Trice Whitefield or Tim Miller, you might want to hit the Google.

(h/t, Pylon in comments.)

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Just Another Phony Rick Berman Astroturf Front Group

[UPDATE]:

On a whim I did a Google news search for Berman & Co. employee David Martosko. Looks like the media is still getting pwned by Berman’s tricks. Martosko is now masquerading as some kind of beef and dairy industry expert in an effort to discredit the Humane Society of the United States.

For what it’s worth, Wikipedia says the phony front group Center for Consumer Freedom was founded with money from Berman client Philip Morris.

————————-

The “Committee To Rethink Reform” is running TV ads in Tennessee full of scary lightning bolts and trillion-bazillion dollar figures pulled out of some Heritage Foundation flunky’s ass claiming we’ll all be doooooooomed if healthcare reform passes.

It’s typical fear propaganda, but they’re telling people to call Lincoln Davis so I thought I’d find out who this “Committee To Rethink Reform” is. Turns out it’s the same group that ran scary ads in the New York Times last December telling senior citizens that if healthcare reform passes, they’d have to walk 71 miles in the desert with a character out of Ben Hur snapping a whip in the air to get to the nearest doctor.

Well, something along those lines.

So who is the “Committee To Rethink Reform”? Apparently it’s another creation of conservative lobbyist/corporate flack Rick Berman. Remember him? He’s the guy dubbed “Dr. Evil” for setting up phony “non-profit” front groups to peddle corporate lies. Among his greatest hits: hiring actors at $30 an hour to pretend to be anti-debt “protestors,” and running full page ads in the New York Times linking the Humane Society to terrorists.

Berman & Co. uses the Rethink Reform campaign as one of its case studies on its company website. Berman never reveals where his funding comes from, but if I were to take a guess I’d be looking at AHIP and PhRMA for this campaign. Just a guess.

In 2009 CREW launched a website “ripping the cloak of secrecy” away from Rick Berman’s phony campaigns, called BermanExposed.org. It’s pretty shocking what a sleazebag this guy is. Lies and deceptions are his stock in trade.

Here I learned that Rick Berman’s employees pose as policy experts to get op-eds published in newspapers around the country:

Berman and Company’s public relations professionals, posing as policy experts, have landed pieces in the opinion pages of newspapers throughout the country. Unfortunately, most of these news outlets fail to sufficiently vet and identify these hired guns.

For example, David Martosko, a Berman employee, who is frequently cited as a scientific expert, received his graduate degree in opera from the Peabody Conservatory of Music at Johns Hopkins University.

In Mr. Martosko’s efforts to discredit the National Cancer Institute’s findings on red meat consumption and increased mortality, he spearheaded a letter-writing campaign publishing his opinions in papers including the Sacramento Bee and the Athens Banner-Herald. Mr. Martosko was not identified as a Berman and Company employee, but rather as “Director of Research for the Center for Consumer Freedom.”

Tim Miller, another Berman hire, has also been identified in his letters and op-eds by his association to the company’s front groups. For example, Mr. Miller opined in response to an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that his “organization,” the Center for Consumer Freedom, was in opposition to the Payday Loan Reform Act to counter “antiloan activist rhetoric” and went on to rehash the newest slogans from the Center’s latest payday loan ad campaign. In addition, Berman’s Center for Economic and Entrepreneurial Literacy is behind a pro-payday loan site http://econ4u.org/moneymatters_payday.cfm masquerading as a ‘financial education’ site.

Mr, Miller’s real job is the director of communications for Berman and Company and his listed positions include a number of its affiliated front groups: the Center for Consumer Freedom, the Center for Union Facts, the Employment Policy Institute, the Employees Freedom Action Committee, the Center for Economic and Entrepreneurial Literacy, the American Beverage Institute, and Activist Cash. Mr. Miller has served as the communications coordinator for Sen. John McCain’s Iowa caucus campaign. Before that, he was the communications director for Jeff Lamberti’s failed 2006 congressional campaign in Iowa’s 3rd district, the political director for Bill Dix’s failed 2006 congressional campaign in Iowa’s 1st district, the field director for Jerry Kilgore’s failed 2005 campaign for Governor of Virginia, and as a travel aide for Bill Lee’s failed 2004 campaign for Governor of Delaware.

Well isn’t that special. Now that Rick Berman’s latest phony front group is targeting Lincoln Davis, I wonder how long before we read a Berman employee’s op-ed in the Tennessean?

You know, if you have to misrepresent who you are to such an outrageous degree, perhaps that should tell you something about your position. Just sayin’.

Anyway, just thought I’d let folks know who the “Committee To Rethink Reform” is. Just another phony front group spouting the corporate line. I know y’all are shocked.

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Filed under astroturfing, Lincoln Davis, Rick Berman