Beware The BIG LIE
Editors’ Note: This is the last of a three-part series on how some politicians and their special interest supporters, through the use of fundraising regulations, are attempting to intimidate and discredit nonprofits that oppose them.
Part One — Beware: Oklahoma’s Mini-Nixon
Part Two — Anatomy of a Smear Campaign
A key player in the drive by the Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma Farm Bureau and the factory farm/agribusiness conglomerates to silence the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF).
Backed by many of America’s restaurant chains like Wendy’s, and agribusinesses like Cargill, it claims to act in the name of consumer freedom and choice.
One of CCF’s main projects is HumaneWatch, which disparages the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) with the goal of discrediting it in the public’s eye and cutting into the group’s fundraising.
Kinda like the logo below of the Humane Society of the United States isn’t it?
But the big guys, the special interest folks, don’t stop at logos when it comes to creating brand confusion and attacking a nonprofit that Worth magazine ranked as one of America’s 10 most fiscally responsible charities.
With great pride and fanfare HumaneWatch boasts of it campaigns of confusion and deception. Like placing gigantic anti-HSUS billboards in New York City’s Times Square to mislead and drive away donors.
See for yourself right here, courtesy of HumaneWatch.
This strategy is as simple as it is deceptive. And they employed it again in Oklahoma. First it misuses the HSUS brand by deliberately positioning HSUS as an organization whose main purpose is providing rescue shelters for cats. Then HumaneWatch claims that HSUS isn’t spending nearly enough on cat and dog shelter. Ergo: HSUS is deceiving consumers and therefore must be investigated by the Oklahoma Attorney General for violating the state’s fundraising regulations.
It’s kinda like the coal industry claiming Greenpeace is a fraud because it should be spending 99% of its funds defending seals and whales rather than, heaven forbid, spending money on clean air, climate change and a call for alternative energy sources.
These folks have truly mastered the art of the ‘BIG LIE’. They’ve spent millions against HSUS and other animal rights opponents — and lots of other advocacy groups for that matter — claiming that black is white. All with skillful contradiction or distortion of the facts and massively funded repetition. Black is white … Black is white … Black is white.
HumaneWatch and its parent, The Center for Consumer Freedom, are part of a web of nonprofit entities run by Richard “Rick” Berman, who according to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington: “Is a longtime Washington, D.C. public relations specialist whose lobbying and consulting firm, Berman and Company, Inc., advocates for special interests and powerful industries. Berman and Co. wages deceptive campaigns against industry foes including labor unions; public-health advocates; and consumer, safety, animal welfare, and environmental groups.”
Companies pay him to fight against animal rights, healthy food, unions, even Mothers Against Drunk Driving. But Berman say’s he’s just taking the other side. CBS’ 60 Minutes segment titled “Meet Dr. Evil” is worth watching for a view of the man behind the curtain.
Whether you work with an animal rights organization or any number of other nonprofits, Mr. Berman, his special interest backers and their web of tax-deductible nonprofits and euphemistically-named associations have demonstrated their capacity to muddy the waters, sow confusion, and distort the facts … all in service of advancing the Big Lie — black is white — on a range of issues.
The operational recipe of the Berman groups seems to be the same regardless of the issue or the nonprofit they’re targeting:
- Creation of front groups (like HumaneWatch) either targeting legitimate nonprofits or disguised with euphemistic names like “The Center for Consumer Freedom”. Or both.
- Misleading media campaigns, offline and online.
- News stories, letters to the editors and op-eds seeded by industry faithful.
- Highly visible ads and billboards.
- All followed by complaints to Congress, state attorneys general and the charity watchdogs.
As in … the Center for Consumer Freedom’s Oklahoma advertising campaign against HSUS.
As in … leveraging that advertising campaign to help trigger Attorney General Pruitt’s ‘consumer alert’ and ‘Investigative Demands’ for supposed violation of fundraising regulations.
As in … the Attorney General repeating the distorted claims of Berman’s Center for Consumer Freedom without even bothering to wait for HSUS to respond to his request for information.
Hello Big Lie.
Roger and Tom
P.S. Many of these Berman-made groups enjoy 501(c)(3) status, which the Humane Society of the United States is now seeking to have revoked. For a detailed look into Rick Berman’s interconnected web, we asked HSUS to share with Agitator readers their take on the Berman Empire. You can download it here.