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MADD, HSUS v. ABI, Berman & Co., Richard B. Berman


On May 11, 2010 Mothers Against Drunk Driving and The Humane Society of the United States filed a formal complaint with the New York State Commission on Public Integrity requesting an investigation into illegal lobbying activities by Washington lobbyist Rick Berman, his for-profit lobbying firm, and one of his many corporate front groups, the American Beverage Institute (ABI). New York’s lobbying law requires every lobbyist to register and report lobbying activities in excess of $5000 to the Commission. The complaint alleges ABI spent over $70,000 to purchase and publish full-page ads to influence and defeat pending legislation intended to make roadways safer by cracking down on recidivism by convicted DWI offenders.

ABI is run by Washington-based lobbyist Richard Berman and his for-profit lobbying firm which oversee a network of tax-exempt front groups that are funded by anonymous corporate donors. These front groups serve private business interests by attacking advocacy organizations deemed a threat to the profitability of Berman’s alcohol, tobacco, agribusiness and fast-food clients. Neither ABI, Berman, nor Berman’s company registered as lobbyists or reported lobbying activity from 2008 to 2009. It is a misdemeanor to violate the Lobbying Act’s registration and reporting requirements and provides for civil penalties of up to $25,000.


 

Court or Agency: The New York State Commission on Public Integrity
Plaintiff: Mothers Against Drunk Driving and The Humane Society of the United States
Respondents: The American Beverage Institute, Berman & Company, and Richard B. Berman
Outside Counsel: David Grandeau, Esq.
Status: Investigation pending before the New York State Commission on Public Integrity