Rick Berman is the owner of Berman & Company Inc., a public relations firm based in Washington DC which aggressively targets groups seeking to promote controls relating to alcohol, tobacco, food safety, animal rights or the environment.
According to Berman, 'Our offensive strategy is to shoot the messenger... Given the activists' plans to alarm beyond all reason, we've got to attack their credibility as spokepersons.'
Berman & Co. are behind the Center for Consumer Freedom , formerly known as the Guest Choice Network, known to have received a $200,000 donation from Monsanto. The Consumer Freedom campaign smears organic food as dangerous and promotes what it calls 'genetically improved food'.
Berman and his firm paint GM opponents as terrorists, asserting that 'anti-biotech extremists' are part of a 'growing wave of domestic terrorism'. They say the people we need to worry about are not just al-Qa'ida but 'the middle-class kids down the street.' (Terrorists On The March -- In America, USA Today)
Berman & Co. have even declared the charity of the British and Irish churches, Christian Aid, a 'far-left leaning' group that 'flat-out lies about GE foods', hiding 'behind a religious facade to more easily malign farmers, scientists, food companies, and even PR people who deal with GE foods.'.
Berman & Co's internet PR campaign also includes ActivistCash.com which claims to 'root out the funding sources' of 'the most notorious and extreme groups that conspire to restrict the public's food and beverage choices'. However, the Center for Media and Democracy says ActivistCash.com draws on information already largely public and mixes it with distortions and misinformation.
Curiously, Monsanto's $200,000 donation to Berman's PR activities only became public as a result of information from a whistle-blower. And Berman appears to take great exception to attempts to root out his own financial relationship with the various lobby organisations run by Berman & Co. He even threatened a lawsuit for defamation after attention was drawn to his 'funneling millions of corporate dollars - donated to non-profit organizations he runs - right into his own bank accounts. Berman pays himself the cash both directly and personally in the form of salary and benefits for his role as 'Executive Director,' as well as through payments he makes from the non-profits to his own corporation, Berman & Company, Inc., for 'consulting.' '
Berman was also implicated in a cash-for-favors scandal involving Newt Gingrich.