Thursday, May 13, 2010

Fighting Back Against Rick Berman

Well, looks like someone is finally firing back against D.C. lobbyist/professional corporate astroturfer Rick Berman:
Mothers Against Drunk Driving and The HSUS File Ethics Complaint Against Rick Berman

Groups allege American Beverage Institute violated N.Y. law

Two of the nation's leading public interest charities — Mothers Against Drunk Driving and The Humane Society of the United States — formally asked the New York State Commission on Public Integrity on Tuesday to open an investigation into illegal lobbying by Washington lobbyist Rick Berman and one of his many corporate front groups, the American Beverage Institute.

The complaint alleges that Berman and ABI violated New York state's lobbying law. The Lobbying Act requires every lobbyist who spends more than $5,000 on lobbying activities to register and report their activities to the Commission. The complaint alleges ABI violated the law by failing to register and report lobbying activities, including expenditures in excess of $70,000. ABI spent more than $70,000 to purchase and publish advertisements 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, who oversees a network of tax-exempt organizations that serve private business interests by attacking advocacy organizations deemed a threat to the profitability of Berman's alcohol, tobacco, agribusiness and fast-food clients.

I first got hip to Rick Berman during the healthcare reform debate when his astroturf group “Committee To Rethink Reform” started running ads in Tennessee.

Wonder if he registered as a lobbyist in Tennessee? I'm thinking ... not. Might be something for some folks to look into.

Berman is a stealth lobbyist. His sock puppets blanket local media with op-eds, masquerading as experts at dummy "non-profit groups" given impressive names. Most media outlets appear to have been duped (including our own Gannett fishwrap). Berman employee David Martosko, tasked with targeting HSUS and PETA, has been making the rounds of ag publications like “” and The Modesto Bee, which all quote Martosko as a representative of “The Center for Consumer Freedom” (heck, Martosko has even given testimony to the U.S. Senate). Indeed, Martosko's Twitter feed is a vertiable index of media gullibility.

None of these publications mention that the Center for Consumer Freedom is another one of Berman’s phony front groups and David Martosko is its chief sockpuppet.

It's all so sleazy. Kinda makes you wonder: if the industries hiring Rick Berman had a leg to stand on, why resort to the subterfuge? Why the astroturfing and the sock puppetry?

According to Berman Exposed:

David Martosko has served as director of research for Berman & Company and its front group the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) since 2001. He is a frequent spokesperson and editorial writer for both organizations. He previously served as a senior research analyst for the Berman front group Guest Choice Network, which later rebranded as CCF. Frequently cited as a scientific and economic expert, Martosko received his graduate degree in opera from the Peabody Conservatory of Music at Johns Hopkins University in 1995.

When called on this blatant dishonesty back in 2006 Martosko responded:

David Martosko: "Welcome to Washignton. This is the way things tend to be done here."