Lobbyist tells Fossil Fuel Execs: Play Dirty to Win Ugly

October 31, 2014

Ugly story.
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.”

Pdf of Berman’s presentation here.

John Mashey at Desmogblog:

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.

1995.10.19 Barbara Trach (PM) to Ellen Merlo (PM)

“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)

1995.11.25 Berman (GCN) to Elizabeth Culley (Philip Morris)

“… 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:

Washington, D.C. lobbying scourge Richard B. “Rick” Berman is facing steadily increasing pushback these days, and some of it is coming from a surprising source — his own son, musician David Berman.

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:

My father.

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.

It hurts.

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.



26 Responses to “Lobbyist tells Fossil Fuel Execs: Play Dirty to Win Ugly”

  1. Phillip Shaw Says:

    While watching the interview with Berman my reaction was “What a loathsome human being”. An hour after watching it I still feel tainted and unclean. I wonder if Maddow had had an exorcist cleanse the set after he left.

    I’m going to take another shower and then spend the rest of the day helping strangers. Maybe that will balance my karma.

  2. anotheralionel Says:

    Hum! From that Maddow segment high fructose corn syrup is not that bad, according to Rick Berman’s ‘sweetscam.com’ – hum!. Time to inform that fructose, a sweetener used in many products including high juice cordials, is implicated in the increase in cases of gout:

    Soft drinks, fructose consumption, and the risk of gout in men: prospective cohort study

    Gout surge blamed on sweet drinks.

    Thank you food and drink industry something else I cannot touch having developed gout, and no I hardly touch alcohol.

    What is that saying about pure evil personified?

  3. […] Ugly story. 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 type…  […]

  4. anotheralionel Says:

    Berman’s research director David Martosko and Right-Wing Media Claims Surgeon General Nominee Has “Anti-Gun” Agenda Based On Comments He Made As A Teenager on an article by Martosko in, wait for it …………….The Daily Mail.

  5. jimbills Says:

    What we need to understand is that some people don’t care about paying fairly or telling the truth 100% of the time if they think they’re protecting a larger truth or greater goal. Most of these guys have rationalized their worldview in ways that allow them to lie, cheat, and steal with impunity. This is the definition of neo-conservatism to me.

    The greater goal to them is the religion of self-interest, enforced by free market economic theory and mythologized by Ayn Rand.

    • [i]The greater goal to them is the religion of self-interest, enforced by free market economic theory and mythologized by Ayn Rand.[/i]

      Absolutely right, Jimbills.

      Speaking of Ayn Rand, I’ve never read her obnoxious books except for her first one (which is mostly unknown), “We the Living.” Set in the early days of the Soviet Union, that one wasn’t actually too bad. It gives a feel of what it was like while Stalin was asserting his authority and things grew more oppressive over time. Rand should have quite writing while she was ahead.

      As for her two big blockbusters which the wingnuts worship, “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged,” I’ve seen the movies. Both were painful to watch. “The Fountainhead” (filmed in 1949, in black & white) was utterly boring and the premise was ridiculous. “Atlas Shrugged” – I’ve seen parts I & II (dubbed in Russian but with English subtitles) – it was less boring than Fountainhead but the plot was even more ridiculous. At least it’s filmed in color.

      Can’t wait to see part III, but I don’t plan to pay for it.

      • anotheralionel Says:

        And anybody who gives their offspring one of the two names ‘Rand’ and ‘Ayn’ must have suspect thinking processes.

        • dumboldguy Says:

          That wasn’t her real name. She was born in Russia and her parents gave her the name Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum. She took the Ayn from Finnis), and there is evidence that the Rand is a contraction and rearrangement of her Russian surname.

  6. astrostevo Says:

    Playing dirty to win. Win what really and for how long and is it worth it?

    Guess those scumbags never ask themselves those questions or care about the answers – and so we all lose.

  7. andrewfez Says:

    That guy is like a movie character, but he sums up the modern Republican brain fairly decently: doesn’t matter if we’re right, just as long as we ‘win’.

  8. mbrysonb Says:

    Nice to see the background details revealed. Funny, though, with all the documentation of guys like this paid big bucks by greedy corporations to help them spread poison, some people still think we need to worry about greedy scientists hungry for research money.

  9. lorne50 Says:

    You do know using big oil, big tobacco, big sugar is wrong I quit smoking years ago so now you want me to stop sugar??? and really I live in Canada I will keep working on the rigs so my girls can finish university . Along with that I will not freeze to death to make some clod in a warm clime feel all warm and fuzzy about saving a 6 billion year old planet !!! and bye the way mbrysonb CO2 is not a poison dubma$$ let’s get it all out of the atmosphere and see how that goes for Man !!!

    Lorne Clinton

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Good old Lorne. Always willing to visit Crock and spout foolish things that show his ignorance of all things scientific. He has made me curious, though. I hope he tells us more about that “6 billion year old planet” that “some clod in a warm clime” is trying to save. Like, where it is maybe?? Because it’s sure not in our solar system.

    • andrewfez Says:

      Put that oil to use, Lorne, and make some bituthene wrap so folks up north can lower their energy bills:

  10. lorne50 Says:

    OOP’S I’m wrong it started in the 70’s

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