Remember Richard Berman, better known as ‘Dr. Evil‘ for his long career as a lobbyist and PR hit man? The Guardian has revealed that Berman is operating a host of fake organizations which are designed to create the appearance of popular opposition to new EPA rules meant to grapple with greenhouse gas emissions. And of course, Berman’s doing this on behalf of the usual suspects:
Over the last year, Berman has secretly routed funding for at least 16 studies and launched at least five front groups attacking Environmental Protection Agency rules cutting carbon dioxide from power plants, the Guardian has learned.
[…] From the offices of Berman’s PR firm in Washington, at least five new front groups have launched attack ads against the EPA, environmental groups, fishermen and sportsmen, and green building organisations. The groups all use Berman’s address.
Meanwhile, the Employment Policies Institute, a tax-exempt organisation headed by Berman and operating out of his office according to tax filings, funded a series of reports by an ultra-conservative thinktank, the Beacon Hill Institute.
The reports, claiming the power plant rules would lead to rolling blackouts, send electricity prices skyrocketing, and devastate local economies, are being published in 16 states by a network of pro-corporate and ultra-conservative thinktanks.
All of the reports were funded by EPI, according to Suffolk University, the host institution for Beacon Hill. Suffolk released a list of such grants.
[…] Beacon Hill is associated with a network of ultra-conservative groups working with the American Legislative Exchange Council and funded by patrons of anti-government causes such as the Koch brothers and Searle Freedom Trust. (Emphasis mine)
Its director, David Tuerck, appears on the roster of experts at the Heartland Institute, which adopts an extreme-sceptic position on the existence of human-caused climate change. Tuerck has also featured as a keynote speaker at Heartland’s climate conferences.
The website BermanExposed.org has a long list of these organizations. Last year, the New York Times exposed Berman’s advice to oil & gas companies that they “employ tactics like digging up embarrassing tidbits about environmentalists and liberal celebrities…exploit emotions like fear, greed and anger…you can either win ugly or lose pretty.” During that speech, Berman bragged about his success in concealing his funding sources so they aren’t held responsible for his actions:
Mr. Berman repeatedly boasted about how he could take checks from the oil and gas industry executives — he said he had already collected six-figure contributions from some of the executives in the room — and then hide their role in funding his campaigns.
“People always ask me one question all the time: ‘How do I know that I won’t be found out as a supporter of what you’re doing?’ ” Mr. Berman told the crowd. “We run all of this stuff through nonprofit organizations that are insulated from having to disclose donors. There is total anonymity. People don’t know who supports us.”
In other words, Berman is an expert at turning dark money into fake grassroots organizations — better-known as ‘astroturf’ to distinguish them from the legitimate grassroots organizations that he opposes — while preventing the public from being able to know just whose agenda his organizations actually represent. It’s a fundamentally dishonest way of doing business, but thanks to weak disclosure laws it’s also perfectly legal.