August 18, 2014; Center for Public Integrity
Recently, the Humane Society has been targeted by attack ads placed in Washington, D.C.’s metro system. The posters feature a sad-looking caged dog and accuse the nonprofit of giving only a small portion of the money it raises to animal shelters, instead devoting donation money to employee pensions and legal fees for a racketeering case.
The ads have as a contact “HumaneWatch.org,” a site the Center for Public Integrity says is “one of dozens connected to local public relations executive Rick Berman, once dubbed ‘Dr. Evil’ in a segment of 60 Minutes. The site is the product of the Center for Consumer Freedom, managed by Berman and Co. and supported—according to the firm—by restaurants and food companies, who are sometimes targets of the Humane Society.” Berman is the president of the Center for Consumer Freedom.
Berman is characterized here as a PR gun for hire, going after nonprofits considered unfriendly to business. NPQ has, of course, written about Berman before, here and here.
Beyond the Humane Society, his endeavors have targeted health advocates, unions, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving. The Center for Public Integrity found some of his clients and they include the International Dairy Foods Association, the Corn Refiners Association; and the Institute for Humane Studies, a think tank led by Charles Koch.
Sign up for our free newsletters
Subscribe to NPQ's newsletters to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.
Active on social media as well as in print ads, HumaneWatch.org spent $2.3 million in its first three years. The pitch on the website for the Berman firm states, “We don’t just change the debate. If necessary, we start the debate.”
Meanwhile, Berman is not against stirring up business with such stuff as this recent article, “A Trip into the Lion’s Den,” in which Berman explains to readers of Dairy Herd Management why the Humane Society is not to be trusted despite its benign image.
“But for all of the organization’s posturing as a group that wants to help restaurants serve ‘humane’ animal products, know this: Not a single animal product was on the menu at HSUS’s conference. HSUS has an office vegan policy. Its key leaders are vegan and don’t believe in ice cream, butter, meat, cheese, or any product that has its genesis in farm animals.
“This is representative of a fundamental and philosophical duplicity that any company should beware of.”