Lobbyist tells Fossil Fuel Execs: Play Dirty to Win Ugly
October 31, 2014
Big time PR firms are some of the most odious players in the anti-science movement, masterminding campaigns for big oil, big tobacco, big sugar, and a host of other death merchant types.
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.
“That you have to play dirty to win,” said the executive, who provided a copy of the recording and the meeting agenda to The New York Times under the condition that his identity not be revealed. “It just left a bad taste in my mouth.”
Berman was paid well by Philip Morris (PM), which stays in business only by addicting people during vulnerable adolescent/young adult brain development, so they can be lifeshort customers. Berman has worked for companies that privatize the profits and socialize the costs. He attacked fine scientists like Steve Schneider (Stanford) and Stan Glantz (UCSF).
Following is a small sample from the instructive Legacy Tobacco Documents Library. Philip Morris was quite friendly to Berman, responding quickly with money, at least $600K + ($200K + $200K + $500K) + $350K + $300K = $21.5M in 4 years.
“We have been looking for a consultant who is both a hospitality industry insider as well as a legislatively astute individual . We believe we have found a worthy candidate who can help us to test these waters and ultimately succeed in achieving our goal.
Rick Berman …General Counsel to The American Beverage Institute (A.B.I). The ABI is an organization of restaurateurs and beverage industry leaders whose goal is to inform government officials and the public on issues involving adult beverages.The primary issue of the ABI is opposing the lowering of the legal Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level.” (more praise for Berman)
“… I’m hopeful that your company will be able to make a contribution of $500,000 to help us continue our education program on behalf of the hospitality industry and the public consumer.”
2009 background story in PRWatch:
Berman has long been the front man through which corporations have aggressively attacked their opponents without leaving fingerprints. Known to his own friends and enemies alike as “Dr. Evil,” Berman has perfected the art of setting up non-profit “charitable” groups to advance corporate interests. The groups have deceptively helpful-sounding names, like “Guest Choice Network,” the “Employment Policies Institute” or the “Center for Consumer Freedom,” but really serve as well-funded attack dogs for the tobacco, alcohol, chain restaurant, tanning and other industries. The groups’ non-profit status makes their funding hard to trace, which has permitted Berman to operate in the shadows for decades while pocketing millions from unpopular industries for his work thwarting public interest legislation.
Berman depends on secrecy to cloak his operations, but recently the Congressional watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) unveiled a hard-hitting new Web site, http://www.BermanExposed.org, which unmasks Berman’s front groups, tactics, employees and projects. (Berman succeeded in knocking this website offline on January 29 but it was back up by February 1.) CREW’s Web site outs Berman’s “charitable” groups as the lobbying tools they are, and describes how he uses them to run attack ads and implement other tactics to fight Mothers Against Drunk Driving, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and other public interest groups’ efforts to raise awareness of obesity, secondhand smoke, drunk driving, mad cow disease, and other causes. CREW even posted a photo of the $3.3 million house Berman purchased with money he has earned from his dirty lobbying tactics.
CREW’s new site was a resounding strike at Berman, but it might have inadvertently catalyzed yet another blow that hits even closer to home.
Rick Berman’s son, David Berman, is a 42-year-old singer-songwriter who, since 1989, has been the front singer for a popular New York City indie rock band called the “Silver Jews.” Over the years, the Jews have developed a loyal following, but on January 22, 2009 David Berman stunned his fans by posting a note to an online message board announcing that after all these years he was leaving the Silver Jews. The reason? His father, Rick Berman.
In scathing language, David disclosed to his fans who his father is, and how leaving the band related to his father’s work. David wrote,
“Now that the Joos are over I can tell you my gravest secret. Worse than suicide, worse than crack addiction:
You might be surprised to know he is famous, for terrible reasons. My father is a despicable man. My father is a sort of human molestor.
An exploiter. A scoundrel. A world historical mother******* son of a bitch. (sorry grandma).
You can read about him here:
… A couple of years ago I demanded he stop his work. Close down his company or I would sever our relationship.
He refused. He has just gotten worse. More evil. More powerful. We’ve been “estranged” for over three years.
Even as a child I disliked him. We were opposites. I wanted to read. He wanted to play games.
He is a union buster.
When I got out of college I joined the Teamsters (the guards were union organized at the Whitney).
I went off to hide in art and academia.
I fled through this art portal for twenty years. In the meantime my Dad started a very very bad company called Berman and Company.
He props up fast food/soda/factory farming/childhood obesity and diabetes/drunk driving/secondhand smoke.
He attacks animal lovers, ecologists, civil action attorneys, scientists, dieticians, doctors, teachers.
His clients include everyone from the makers of Agent Orange to the Tanning Salon Owners of America.
He helped ensure the minimum wage did not move a penny from 1997-2007!
The worst part for me as a writer is what he does with the English language.
Though vicious he is a doltish thinker, and his spurious editorials rely on doublethink and always with the Lashon Hara.
As I studied Judaism over the years, the shame and the shanda, grew almost too much. My heart was constantly on fire for justice. I could find no relief.
This winter I decided that the SJs [Silver Jews] were too small of a force to ever come close to undoing a millionth of all the harm he has caused. To you and everyone you know.
Literally, if you eat food or have a job, he is reaching you.
I’ve always hid this terrible shame from you, the fan. The SJs have always stood autonomous and clear.
Hopefully it won’t contaminate your feelings about the work … In a way I am the son of a demon come to make good the damage.
Previously I thought, through songs and poems and drawings I could find and build a refuge away from his world.
But there is the matter of Justice.
And I’ll tell you it’s not just a metaphor. The desire for it actually burns.
There needs to be something more. I’ll see what that might be.
David’s powerful note provides insight into the tortured feelings David has endured as the son of the Lobbyist from Hell. We well agree that Rick Berman is guilty of shamefully obstructing public health and working to crush those who care about public welfare, clean air, the environment, animal rights and other causes. For any normal father, this public note would be excruciatingly painful. For all we know, it might be for Rick Berman, too. But will the pain of this note be enough to change him?
We hope David’s public expression of his feelings about his father’s work will make Rick Berman think about what he is doing to society, if not his family. If it isn’t, well then David, we are on your side and are willing to help you in any way we can.
You gotta feel for the son. Obviously whatever he’s been doing since 2009 hasn’t worked.