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Posts Tagged ‘Rick Berman’

Ethics Fail: PR Firm Doubles as ‘Independent Research Institute’

shutterstock_124525963The fast food industry suffered some terrible PR a few weeks ago when an infographic revealed that a majority of employees at big chains qualify for federal benefits; the headlines read that American taxpayers essentially subsidize these companies’ ability to pay their workers low wages. It’s not a new theme, but it bolstered arguments that Walmart greeters and McD’s managers alike should not be prohibited from unionizing and lobbying for higher pay.

As the story grew, one name popped up over and over again as a contrary source speaking out against any related minimum wage increases: the Employment Policies Institute.

The problem, as revealed by the Center for Media and Democracy‘s PRWatch: EPI is another name for Berman and Co., a PR/lobbying firm created by former restaurant industry executive and labor attorney Rick Berman. He’s also responsible for the American Beverage Institute, a “think tank” fighting smoking bans and efforts to lower blood-alcohol limits used in DUI charges, as well as HumaneWatch.org, a site focused on countering the Humane Society of the United States‘ push for stricter regulations on animal testing.

There are more. Berman is essentially public enemy #1 to anyone who supports government-funded public health initiatives, and he doesn’t seem to mind.

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The Right Wing’s Journalist Pipeline and the Downfall of James O’Keefe

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Some might argue James O’Keefe, the young man who posed as a pimp to embarrass ACORN, is the conservative answer to The Yes Men. Now, he and a group of fellow former college newspaper editors are up on felony charges for attempting to tamper with Senator Mary Landrieu‘s (D-LA) phone system.

The Washington Independent took a deeper look this morning at O’Keefe’s origins as a perpetrator of publicity stunts, and as a young journalist, revealing a split between those who believe in his brand of “hacktivism” versus those who follow the feeder system from campus newspapers to jobs at right wing and libertarian publications.

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Rachel Maddow Calls Out Another PR Firm

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Rachel Maddow has set her sights on another PR firm for creating front groups under the guise of grassroots movements to sway opinion on a given issue. Last night, she called out the DCI Group, a 160-person D.C. communications and lobbying shop for creating the Coalition to Protect Patient’s Rights.

We’ll see if DCI CEO Doug Goodyear accepts Maddow’s invitation to come on the show the way Rick Berman did. Berman, labeled “Dr. Evil” by 60 Minutes, happily jousted with Maddow last month over his SweetScam grassroots effort against “big sugar” and other campaigns.

The law currently doesn’t require non-profit advocacy groups to disclose where they get their funding.

Maddow also aired a number of spots about megafirm Burson-Marsteller last spring regarding its work with AIG.

Rick Berman’s Sweet Scam

Richard Berman, or Rick Berman, the public affairs consultant and lobbyist 60 Minutes named “Dr. Evil” has a new, very sweet campaign.

On behalf of the food industry, the 30 person firm Berman and Company put together an ad and internet campaign under the guise of his Center for Consumer Freedom non-profit on behalf of the food industry called Sweet Scam (see ad above). Its purpose is to show consumers (and media) that “Big Sugar” is spinning lies about the “little guy”: high-fructose corn syrup.

The ad got the National Honey Board a rare piece of publicity:

“My curiosity is why big powerful high fructose corn syrup is going after a sweetener that accounts for only 1.5 percent of consumption,” (Bruce) Wolk said. “If it helps our market share, we are all for it.”

Unlike much of the bare knuckle work chronicled by PRWatch, Berman is both upfront and unabashedly proud of his work hacking at the chair legs of everything from the UAW, teachers’ unions, MADD and more recently, Acorn. His “debunking” campaigns audaciously go after irrefutables like automotive interlock technology (to prevent drunks from driving), and the dangers of tanning beds.

Berman embraces his Machiavellian role. The 60 Minutes profile is in the same position on his agency’s site, and his YouTube page as it is on BermanExposed.org.

The reason these efforts work at all is because they directly tap in to small government libertarians, as well the media seeking a counterbalance to memes popularized by best-selling authors like Michael Pollan.

Berman issued a press release about SweetScam.com last night. I’d hazard to guess that Berman’s messages will get more traction than the Corn Refiners Association’s SweetSurprise.com.

His tactics have also put him in Rachel Maddow’s crosshairs. See the clip after the jump where she explains his role in the Acorn dogpile, with some of the 60 Minutes footage spliced in:

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