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November 6, 2009

Center for Consumer Freedom: Non-Profit or Corporate Shill?

Center for Consumer Freedom doesn't help animals

Backgrounder on the Center for Consumer Freedom

Masquerading as a legitimate non-profit organization, the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) is a front group for corporations trying to thwart animal welfare, environmental, and other public interest reforms. It is not a consumer protection organization, and it has no social welfare mission. CCF takes in boatloads of corporate cash, providing anonymity to companies and allowing them to get tax breaks through their “donations” to this phony non-profit.

CCF was started with a grant from tobacco companies to attack anti-smoking organizations. With support from the restaurant, alcohol, and agribusiness industries, it has mounted campaigns against Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Humane Society of the United States, and others. CCF has fought against legislation that would reduce the use of plastic shopping bags, and recently mocked New York City’s efforts to combat childhood obesity, saying that Mayor  Bloomberg might as well “cut to the chase and outlaw fun while he’s at it.”

CCF hirelings sling mud on behalf of companies that profit from the mistreatment of animals—including the most extreme actors within the agribusiness sector. It’s not enough that Big Ag’s army of lobbyists keeps squeezing Congress for billions in taxpayer subsidies. They invest in CCF in an attempt to thwart even the most modest animal welfare reforms, defending lifelong confinement of animals, inhumane slaughter practices, and the reckless use of antibiotics on factory farms.

CCF and Humanewatch are two of the 30 or so shadowy non-profit organizations or web-based campaigns founded by or associated with millionaire lobbyist and PR professional, Richard Berman. According to CCF’s 2008 tax filing, 92 percent of all revenue taken in by CCF went straight into the pockets of Berman and his for-profit PR firm¡which appears to be nothing less than a personal enrichment scheme. The IRS form 990 document can be reviewed here.

Berman’s corporate shell game with sham non-profits, his underhanded tactics against charities and public interest organizations, and his refusal to disclose the identity of his corporate paymasters, have been exposed in investigations by major news media, including USA Today, The Washington Post, Harper’s magazine, The Chronicle of Philanthropy and MSNBC. CBS’ 60 Minutes headlined its investigation, “Meet Dr. Evil.” We’ve compiled a list of some of the independent reporting about Berman and CCF here.

You might also see what some other organizations have to say:

SourceWatch has a page on Rick Berman.

o Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has created a website, bermanexposed.org.

o Wikipedia also has a profile on Berman.

o The National Federation of Humane Societies has spoken out against CCF. 


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