Who Funds Rick Berman’s Dark Money Group, the “Center for Consumer Freedom”?

Center for Consumer Freedom's Rick Berman, a.k.a. "Dr. Evil"

Center for Consumer Freedom’s Rick Berman, a.k.a. “Dr. Evil”

Rick Berman, the D.C. beltway corporate lobbyist who revels in the nickname “Dr. Evil,” is at it again, this time defending a dangerous New Hampshire “ag-gag” bill that would block the ability to build solid court cases against animal cruelty in commercial agricultural operations. Berman also penned an opinion piece in the Boston Globe opposing the “Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act,” a bill that would require federal agencies to buy food products only from farms that raise animals free from cruelty and abuse. Aside from the underlying question of why the Boston Globe would print anything by Rick Berman, a corporate sell-out who lacks completely in credibility, why does Berman persist in supporting something as distasteful and horrifically unpopular as animal abuse?

Berman operates the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCR), an industry-funded front group that relentlessly attacks do-good organizations like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Berman uses over-the-top rhetoric, calling people who research and expose the causes behind obesity “food control zealots.” He uses hyperbole and slippery-slope arguments, saying animal welfare groups like the Humane Society are “fighting to get rid of every dairy, pork, egg, beef, veal, and poultry farm across America by increasing the cost of production and hence increasing the price of food.” Hogwash. Whenever possible, HSUS works with commercial ag operations to reduce animal abuses like tail-docking of dairy cows and confinement of animals in horribly small spaces. The groups has been successful in doing so, but does pursue legislation to protect animals, too.

Berman supports animal abuse, obesity, drunk driving and other social ills because big corporations pay him a fortune to do it so they can stay in the shadows and avoid public backlash. After all, how many people would continue to buy Tyson chicken if they knew the company was working to preserve cruelty against chickens? Berman soaks up the corporate largesse that has given him the good life. He lives in a 8,800 square foot mansion in tony McLean, Virginia, and has to choose between driving his Ferrari or his Bentley to work. These days, like so many other dark money groups, Berman refuses to disclose his donors, saying doing so would aid backlash against the corporations. No doubt. Knowing who is paying to spread a message is the very idea behind transparency and its value to a democracy. But Berman doesn’t believe in transparency. Neither do his corporate backers.

So Who Funds Berman’s Attack Machine?

We don’t know who is funding Berman currently, but back in 2003, a nonprofit group in Wisconsin received a list of CCR’s funders, apparently from a disgruntled former CCF employee. That was the last look we had at Berman’s funders. The list is still available on the internet, if you go digging for it. If Berman wants to provide an updated list, we’ll be happy to print it, but until he does, the former list gives us an idea of who may still be funding Berman, and it bears reprinting:

2001

Anton’s Airfoods, Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $3,000
Applebee’s International, Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . $15,000
Cameron Mitchell Restaurants . . . . . . . . . . . . . $1,250
Campagna-Turano Bakery, Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $500
Casual Restaurant Concepts . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . $3,300
Coca-Cola Company . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $200,000
Coldwater Seafood . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $15,000
Crystal’s International . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . $252
Custom Cuts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . … . . . $1,500
Daisy Brand . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . $1,000
Excel/Cargill . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $100,000
Fired Up . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . $6,000
Hatfield Quality Meats . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . $33,700
HMS Host Corporation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $50,000
Jeff’s Gourmet Pies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $1,000
John R. Daily Company . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $750
Kagome, Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . $1,086
King and Prince Seafood . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $9,200
KorBert, Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $300
KPR Foods . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $1,000
LTP Management Group . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . $3,250
Marie Callendar Pie Shops . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . $11,900
Mexican Restaurants . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . $750
Monsanto . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . $200,000
National Steak and Poultry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $10,000
North American Enterprises . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . $500
North American Provisioners . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . $150
Not Your Average Joe’s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $347
Outback Steakhouse . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $164,600
P. F. Chang’s China Bistro . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $15,000
Packaging Corporation of America . . . . . . . . . $10,000
Performance Food Group . . . . . . . … . . . . . . . . $15,000
Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $100,000
Pro Edge . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . … . . . . . . . . . $2,400
Quantum Foods . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . $18,000
Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers . . . . . .. . . . . . $1,000
Rare Hospitality . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $15,000
Real Food Marketing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $500
Restaurant Concepts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $6,000
Rosemount Estates (Southcorp) . . . . . . . . . . . . $5,300
Royal Cup . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . $1,000
Save-on Seafood . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $2,000
Sugar Foods Corporation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $5,000
T. Marzetti Company . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $10,000
TriOak Foods . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $5,100
Tyson Foods, Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $100,000
Wendy’s International, Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $200,000
White Castle System . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $43,872
Worldwide Restaurants Concepts . . . . . . . . . . . $1,500

2002

Brinker International, Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $25,000
Cameron Mitchell Restaurants . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $1,250
Campagna-Turano Bakery, Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $500
China Mist . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $400
Coffee Reserve, Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $140
Darifair Foods . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $5,000
Dean Foods Company . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $5,000
Eli’s Cheesecake Company . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $1,000
Excel/Cargill . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $100,000
Good Humor/Breyer’s Ice Cream . . . . . . . . . . . $1,500
HMS Host Corporation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $25,000
John Soules Foods . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $1,000
Ken’s Foods Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $5,000
Michigan Turkey Producers Coop . . . . . . . . . . . $7,000
National Everclean Service . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $500
Not Your Average Joe’s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $347
Paradise Tomato Kitchens, Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $7,500
Perdue Farms, Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $40,000
Pro Clean . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $1,500
Revolution, Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $1,000
Royal Cup . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $1,500
RTM, Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $64,872
Simmons Foods, Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $5,000
Sun Orchard, Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $2,000
Syracuse’s Italian Sausage . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $500
Tyson Foods, Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $100,000

Main Source: Lifting the Veil of Secrecy from Industry Funding of Nonprofit Health Organizations, (pdf)  by Michael F. Jacobson, Ph.D., International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, 2005;11:349-355 (pdf)

2 comments for “Who Funds Rick Berman’s Dark Money Group, the “Center for Consumer Freedom”?

  1. MG
    February 1, 2014 at 4:58 pm

    I’m all in for consumer freedom to make their choice. That isn’t the issue, it is clear that like those who fund this bias organisation, their real motives as Mr. Berman is but one thing, MONEY! It is them making as much money as they can, without any real care for the customer.

    The fact is consumers should have the right to make a decision for themselves, but based on open and honest facts. This organisation does not represent consumer freedom, it represents the companies who want to keep the consumer in the dark and prevent them from obtaining full information to make an educated, informed decision based on real fact,not marketing BS.

    If this organisation were actually standing up for consumer freedom, Mr. Berman would be lobbying for for products to be fully marked with all information. An example, I want the consumer freedom to decide whether I purchase GM foods (AKA Frankenstein Foods)or chose to spend my money on natural foods, grown from unmodified seed. This organisation would seek to block that information being mandatory, because it represents not the consumer, but the corporations who supply GM seed.

    So, in effect the name of this organisation is at best misleading, propaganda, really in my option, a lie. They really seek to keep the consumer in the dark, fed the rubbish that those who make millions from consumer ignorance and whom are often being seriously harmed by consuming such as food that is unhealthy. The organisations do not give Berman these large sums to promote consumer choice based on the negative facts about their product, it is give purely to further their cause of taking the consumer for a ride.

  2. Lenora
    December 10, 2013 at 12:06 am

    As a former employee of Mr. Berman’s for nearly three years, I can attest that he is one of the most hard working and sincere businessmen I have ever met. To say that he supports animal abuse, drunk driving, and obesity is not only false, it’s an outright lie. Sure, the food and beverage industry has supported his endeavors, but what certainly protects their bottom line also mirrors sincere principles shared by millions of Americans who support consumer choice free from government entanglements. People thought we were silly predicting soda taxes and restrictions a decade ago, but we saw the writing on the wall. The public needs to better understand the threat to liberty posed by increased government involvement in our consumer freedoms and learn the scary truth about radical animal rights orgs that prey on fear and emotion to advance their disguised-as-mainstream agenda. And it’s not a lie that CCF wants to maintain donor anonymity for safety (among other reasons). My coworkers were threatened (and even chased!) by animal rights activists. I could go on and on, but wanted to at least let you know that your article doesn’t accurately portray Mr. Berman’s nor convey the public good and education that CCF provides. Thank you.

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