Big Oil, labor exploiters, industrial food factories, frackers, and other corporate profiteers have been paying a lot of money to a man who celebrates himself as “Dr. Evil” — the scourge of all progressive groups!
But Rick Berman is not a doctor, not evil, and not a scourge. While he is a wholly unprincipled little man, he’s just a self-serving huckster who grubs for corporate dollars by offering to do their dirty PR work. His specialty is taking secret funding from major corporations to publicly slime environmentalists, low-wage workers, and anyone else perceived by his corporate clients as enemies.
Berman’s modus operandi is not exactly sophisticated. Taking money from the likes of Philip Morris, Monsanto, and Tyson Foods, he sets up tax-exempt front groups (with nondescript names like Center for Consumer Freedom, Employment Policies Institute, and Environmental Policy Alliance), posing them as independent research and academic outfits. Each one is an empty shell, run by his small staff of political hacks out of his Washington, D.C., office, and, using the names of the front groups, Berman and Co. buy full-page newspaper ads and write opinion pieces filled with made-up facts and manufactured horror stories for clueless media outlets that amount to raw hatchet attacks on whatever progressive groups or public policies the corporate funders want to kill.
His mad-dog style is hardly worrisome to those targeted, for rather than drawing converts to the corporate funder’s cause, it merely rallies the usual anti-labor, anti-enviro, anti-“fill in the blank” crowd. But it still appeals to brand-name corporate clients, for Berman promises to spew their message into the media without having any of the nastiness stick to them. “We run all this stuff through nonprofit organizations that are insulated from having to disclose donors,” he assured energy executives last year. “There is total anonymity,” he bragged. “People don’t know who supports us.”
And can you even imagine a political PR campaign against environmentalists that was so negative, so ridiculously slanted and downright dirty, that it actually repulsed executives of some of America’s biggest fracking corporations?
Wow — it’s got to take a big wad of ugly to gag a fracker! But in the gross world of political rancor, few cough up hairballs as foul as those produced by Berman. Last year, he was in Colorado Springs, speaking at a meeting of Big Oil frackers about his down-and-dirty plan to smear and ridicule the grassroots enviros who’ve dared to oppose the fracking of Colorado’s land, water, people, and communities. Dubbing the campaign “Big Green Radicals,” the Berman team revealed that their PR firm had dug into the personal lives of Sierra Club board members, looking for tidbits to embarrass them. Gut it up, Berman cried out to the executives, “You can either win ugly or lose pretty.” The Little Generalissimo then urged them to pony up some $3 million for his assault, saying they should “think of this as an endless war,” adding pointedly, “and you have to budget for it.”
Unfortunately for the sleaze peddler, one appalled energy executive recorded his crude pitch and leaked it to the media. “That you have to play dirty to win,” the executive explained, “just left a bad taste in my mouth.” Even Anadarko, an aggressive fracking corporation with 13,000 fracked wells in the Rockies, publicly rejected Berman’s political play, telling the New York Times: “It does not align with our values.”
Berman likes to be called “Dr. Evil,” but he’s so coarse, strident, bombastic, and clownish that he’s become known as “Dr. Silly.” And oops, not only is this huckster an ineffectual fake, but big holes in his curtain of anonymity are now revealing some of the corporations hiding behind it and his big funders want no part of that. To take a peek, go to www.BermanExposed.org.
To find out more about Jim Hightower, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Webpage at www.creators.com.
Photo: Mary Crandall via Flickr