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Archive for August, 2010

 

Have you seen this billboard on 10th and L Streets?

This billboard recently went up in Lincoln, NE in order to coincide with a visit by Humane Society of the United States’ (HSUS) President, Wayne Pacelle. The group behind the billboard is Humanewatch, ostensibly a watchdog group monitoring the HSUS, a group they claim to be an “extremist animal rights group”. In reality Humanewatch is an offshoot of the disingenuously named Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) – a propaganda group for hire. CCF has created many offshoot “front” groups in order to run smear campaigns against public interest groups like: Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) when they were hired by the liquor industry to oppose MADD’s work toward blood alcohol limits; the Center for Science in the Public Interest when hired by the fast food industry to downplay the negative health effects of trans-fats and obesity; the Center for Disease Control (CDC) when hired by the seafood industry in an attempt to discredit the CDC’s claims about the dangers of mercury in seafood; organized labor as a whole through its front groups Center for Union Facts and Employee Freedom Action Committee – in order to defend low wages; and now they have been hired by big agribusiness corporations in order to slander groups that propose animal welfare and environmental standards – standards which corporations feel would hurt their multi-billion dollar profit margins. CCF and its offshoots have also attacked the Environmental Protection Agency in defense of cancer-causing pesticides, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and restrictions on indoor smoking (by attempting to downplay the harm of secondhand smoke).

CCF’s Humanewatch has stooped to outright lying in order to smear animal welfare groups such as HSUS – they were even forced to issue a formal retraction after falsely accusing HSUS of funding international terrorism. The statement on the billboard above is an irrelevant “straw man”, as HSUS is an animal welfare organization which runs its own shelters and does not purport to fund local shelters. CCF offers a valuable service to ruthless corporations by allowing them to anonymously attack organized labor, charity and public interest groups that get in the way of their profits, all the while receiving tax breaks for their “donations”. But don’t take my word for it – all of this information is easily uncovered by doing a simple internet search. 1,2

Humanewatch and CCF were created by Richard Berman, a Washington D.C. lobbyist, with the help of a $600,000 grant from the Phillip Morris Tobacco Corporation to fight anti-smoking groups. Humanewatch is listed by the IRS as a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization, but this “non-profit” funnels 92% of its multi-million dollar corporate “donations” into Berman’s PR firm Berman & Company. 3 By exploiting this legal loophole Berman is able to forego transparency standards for non-profits and acquire all of these millions of dollars as tax-free profits.

Sources:
1 Mayer, Caroline E. and Joyce, Amy. “The Escalating Obesity Wars Nonprofit’s Tactics, Funding Sources Spark Controversy”, The Washington Post, April 27, 2005.
2 http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Rick_Berman
3 2005 IRS Form 990 for the Center for Consumer Freedom. Retrieved on October 20, 2009.

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