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May 11, 2010

Richard Berman: The High Life and Low Road

Today, The HSUS joined Mothers Against Drunk Driving in filing a complaint with the ethics commission in New York against an individual who gets paid millions of dollars by major American corporations to attack public interest groups and stand in the way of people trying to do good for the world.

Richard Berman departs his office in his Bentley, a luxury car
The HSUS
Berman departs his office in his Bentley, a luxury car.

At the same time, The HSUS is publishing the results of a new work of investigative journalism. What you read here will shed light on both today’s filing in New York and, much more broadly, the cynical games played by a man driven so much by greed that he’ll defend and work to perpetuate animal cruelty, stand in the way of drunk driving reforms, and oppose efforts to give our kids healthier foods. The good news is, he consistently fails in his work, unable despite his shell game to impede the march of progress in our society. The bad news is, a small number of major corporations pay this man millions of dollars to run his array of front groups.

As you will read, The HSUS commissioned a Pulitzer-prize winning reporter to take an independent look at this man, Richard Berman, and his web of corporate front groups.

It’s a fascinating and disturbing story. The reporter, Ian T. Shearn, now a freelancer after 29 years as a newspaper editor and writer, produced this work independently, and put his good name to it. The HSUS's role was limited to providing documents, photographs, graphics and interviews. The arrangement is rooted in the best traditions of America’s civic conversation: Does the resulting work present the truth, in context and for reasons that are transparent and honestly stated? I say that it does. I believe you’ll agree.

On almost all days, I think my time and the time of animal advocates around the country is best spent directly fighting cruelty or coming to the aid of animals in need.  But I do believe that part of our work requires us to expose the motives and the conduct of the defenders of cruelty to animals. Today we are shining a spotlight on a guy who claims he’s running charitable organizations, but who is really a shameless lobbying front man for a handful of anonymous corporations. Through his PR work, under the guise of nonprofit corporations, he’s living a multi-millionaire’s lifestyle.

Our primary goal in the months ahead will be to expose his corporate funders. We’re setting our plans in motion.

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