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May 31, 2013

The Real IRS Subplot

When we took on the major problems threatening millions or even billions of animals – cracking down on puppy mills, fighting intensive confinement on factory farms, confronting the government of Canada and its ghastly seal slaughter, working to eradicate dogfighting and cockfighting, and curbing the trade in exotic wildlife – I knew we’d face pushback. It is the inevitable consequence of driving major social reforms.

In the past, I’ve written about Rick Berman, long known as a flack who fights on behalf of tobacco interests, drunk drivers and junk food peddlers. He also argues that it’s fine for young people to use tanning beds and just dandy for pregnant moms to eat fish laced with mercury. Well, after The HSUS started racking up so many gains for animals, he picked up the animal cruelty account, too. The Boston Globe is the latest outlet to have exposed his spider web of front groups and his deceptive attacks against The HSUS. 

HSUS Animal Rescue Team
Michelle Riley/The HSUS

I am not surprised by the likes of Berman and his mercenary work. But what is surprising, at least at first blush, is that a handful of politicians are gullible enough to buy Berman’s false framing and his fuzzy math. It essentially shows that if you want to believe something, you will believe just about anything.

For a couple of years now, a few congressmen, led by a little-known three-term lawmaker named Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., have been regurgitating the Berman claptrap and saying that the Internal Revenue Service should investigate The HSUS. The irony is, it’s Rick Berman who is gaming the system, having created a network of interlocking “non-profit” organizations that provide no public services or social welfare activities and act as front groups for the corporations that fund Berman. These front groups, which are just PR operations, have personally enriched Berman. In one year, with just one of his organizations (the Center for Consumer Freedom), Berman and his for-profit public affairs entity, Berman and Company, pocketed 92 percent of all the money. 

Mr. Luetkemeyer, if you are concerned about an abuse of the tax code, here’s your man: Rick Berman. If you decide to take up the matter with the IRS, we’ve got details to share (and, as an aside, he’s the last guy you should rely on as a source).

And here’s my reply, in one of Luetkemeyer’s hometown papers, to his false charges against The HSUS.

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