American Beverage Institute
This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on front groups and corporate spin.
The American Beverage Institute (ABI) states that its mission is to "promote responsible alcohol consumption." Actually, its primary focus is opposing any lowering of the legal blood alcohol limit for drivers, and fighting smoking bans in bars. The organization is run by lobbyist Rick Berman, whose company, Berman & Co., represents the restaurant, alcoholic beverage and tobacco industries. Berman is quoted in numerous articles as the legislative counsel for the group. He consistently defends "social drinkers" and speaks out against any laws or media coverage that negatively affects the industry. In this capacity he has been a longtime foe of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).
The American Beverage Institute's recent propaganda includes their "Drink Responsibly: Drive Responsibly" campaign. The group refuses to accept the fact that "responsible" means different things to different people. They call MADD and others who work to reform alcohol policies "Neo-prohibitionists" to suggest that they want to infringe upon the average American's right to enjoy the alcoholic beverage of their choice, and to paint them as "Carrie Nations" to be feared. Working to link public health efforts to control a dangerous substance to Prohibition in the public mind is a PR strategy first carried out on a scale by the R.J. Reynolds tobacco company in its Project Breakthrough.
A November 1, 2012 article in Bloomberg shows CCF in the following chart of non-profits created by Berman & Co. at the center of an IRS complaint filed in 2012 (used with permission):
ABI and the tobacco industry
The American Beverage Institute and Rick Berman are listed in a May 4, 2000 Philip Morris presentation as "hospitality allies" who were mobilized to help defeat smoking restrictions in a number of locations around the U.S.
The American Beverage Institute has also served as a tobacco industry front group and a mouthpiece organization for the tobacco industry.
In 1999, the American Beverage Institute published a study performed by KPMG Peat Marwick titled "The Impact of 1998 California Smoking Ban on Bars, Taverns and Night Clubs: A Survey of Owners and Managers." The study surveyed bar owners and managers, asking whether business increased or decreased after January 1, 1998, the date the California bar ban went into effect. It claimed to find that business declined an average of 26.2%, but no hard numbers were used to arrive at this percentage. Rather than look at objective data like actual sales receipts, the ABI survey merely surveyed the opinions of bar owners. Numerous other studies have examined the effect of smoking bans on the hospitality industry, and studies that actually look at taxable sales receipts show no significant impact.
Rick Berman, general cousel for ABI, also serves as a consultant to Philip Morris (PM). 1999 tax Form 990 showed Rick Berman as Executive Director of the Guest Choice Network. Guest Choice Network, the American Beverage Institute (ABI), the Employment Policies Institute, and (Rick) Berman and Company in March, 2001 all shared the same address: 1775 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, #1200, Washington, DC 20006. Richard "Rick" Berman, general counsel for ABI, is also the creator of the Guest Choice Network. Berman and Company and the Employment Policies Institute also share a fax number.
In January 2009, the ABI opposed new laws that became effective in six states that required the installation of ignition interlock devices in vehicles belonging to people convicted of their first drunk driving offense. ABI Managing Director Sarah Longwell argued, "We foresee is a country in which you're no longer able to have a glass of wine, drink a beer at a ball game or enjoy a champagne toast at a wedding." She added, "There will be a de facto zero tolerance policy imposed on people by their cars." Longwell argued that Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), who supported passage of the laws, put too much emphasis on alcohol as a cause of traffic deaths, and disregarded the roles excessive speed and driver cell-phone use in deadly accidents. Shifting the focus of the debate away from the embattled substance/product is a public relations strategy first practiced by the tobacco industry.
As of 2014:
- Richard Berman, President, Director, General Counsel. Berman also held the books for ABI.
- Kerissa Hollis, Director
- Ellen Koteff, Director
- Pete Madland, Secretary, Treasurer, Director
- Stan Novack, Director
- Richard Rivera, Director
Funding and Finances
ABI is registered with the IRS as a 501(c)(6) trade group.
- Total Revenue: $1,586,868
- Total Expenses: $1,533,659
- Payments to Berman & Co. for management, lobbying, and accounting fees: $1,383,845
- Net Assets: $442,240
Like other Berman & Co. organizations, ABI is headquartered at the following address:
Berman & Co.
1775 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 1200
Washington, DC 20006
Phone: (202) 463-7110
FAX: (202) 463-7107
Email: rberman AT new-reality.com
Articles & Resources
Related PRWatch Articles
- Anne Landman, Rick Berman's For-Profit Non-Profits Under the Microscope, PRWatch.org, June 20, 2010.
- Anne Landman, Rick Berman Attacks the Humane Society, PRWatch.org, February 17, 2010.
- Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber, Berman & Co.: "Nonprofit" Hustlers for the Food & Booze Biz, PRWatch, First Quarter 2001, Volume 8, No. 1.
Related SourceWatch Articles
Other Berman Front Groups
- AFT Facts
- American Beverage Institute
- Big Green Radicals
- Center for Consumer Freedom
- Center for Economic and Entrepreneurial Literacy
- Center for Organizational Research and Education
- Center for Union Facts
- CREW Exposed
- CSPI Scam
- Defeat the Debt
- Employment Policies Institute
- Enterprise Freedom Action Committee
- EPA Facts
- Green Decoys
- Hands Off My Bacon
- Interlock Facts
- Interstate Policy Alliance
- LEED Exposed
- Maternity Pens
- No Drink Tax
- PETA Kills Animals
- Physician Scam
- Protecting Bad Teachers
- Responsible Limits
- Rethink Reform
- Rotten ACORN
- Sweet Scam
- Teachers Union Exposed
- The New Prohibition
- Tipped Wage
- Unite Here Exposed
- Vote Our Future
- Humane Society of the United States, Richard Berman's Apparent Tax Scam, organizational IRS complaint website, launched November 2012.
- American Beverage Institute, "The New Killer on the Road: Distracted Drivers", PR Newswire, March 6, 2007.
- Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)'s web site, www.BermanExposed.org
- Mark Drajem & Brian Wingfield, Union Busting by Profiting From Non-Profit May Breach IRS, Bloomberg, November 1, 2012.
- American Beverage Institute, American Beverage Institute, accessed March 2008.
- Legislative & Regulatory update Philip Morris, USA. May 4, 2000. Report/presentation. 22 pp. Bates No. 2085580138/0159
- The Impact of 1998 California Smoking Ban on Bars, Taverns and Night Clubs: A Survey of Owners and Managers. American Beverage Institute/KPMG Peat Marwick. August, 1998. Philip Morris Bates No. 2072048017/8033
- B. Trach, "Background for Meeting 951020 Re: Industry Leaders and the Accommodation Program", Philip Morris USA, October 19, 1995. Bates Number 2072148763.
- Michael Tarm, Associate Press New ignition lock laws aim to foil drunk drivers January 2, 2009
- American Beverage Institute, "2014 IRS Form 990," organizational tax filing, November 11, 2015. Archived by ProPublica.
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