CCF selected campaigns

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This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on front groups and corporate spin.

This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on global corporations.

CCF selected campaigns is a subsection of the main SourceWatch article Center for Consumer Freedom.

Defending GMOs, Attacking Organic Foods

On August 18, 2014, Dr. Joe Perrone published an op-ed in the Detroit News with a byline naming him as "the chief science officer at the Center for Accountability in Science, a project of the nonprofit Center for Organizational Research and Education." The op-ed claimed, in part, "When it comes to organic foods versus genetically modified foods, the scientific consensus overwhelmingly says that nutritionally they're essentially the same and genetically modified foods are perfectly safe to eat" and urged readers to "consider the source of your information."[1]

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), which publishes BermanExposed.org, wrote that "readers should follow... Dr. Perrone’s advice when evaluating his work. CAS is the latest project hatched by corporate PR man Richard Berman, who over the years has used a series of shadowy nonprofits to defend the interests of restaurants, food and booze companies, and the tobacco industry.... CAS’s targets include the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – all previous Berman targets.[2]

CREW also notes, "Dr. Perrone also has a long record of industry work. He used to run a consulting company, previously worked at Becton, Dickinson, and Company, a medical technology company, and has been an adviser to several other companies, including Biomedical Enterprises and FASgen.[2]

The new project's website is accountablescience.com, and its Facebook page, created on August 5, 2014, is active.

Attacking Environmental Advocacy Groups

On March 6, 2014, the Environmental Policy Alliance ran a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal attacking Food & Water Watch, the Sierra Club, and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) as "big green radicals" and announced its new website, BigGreenRadicals.com[3] Food & Water Watch responded with a blog post saying:

"He’s been called an 'arch-enemy of do-gooders' by 60 Minutes. Thanks to his orchestration of massive corporate PR campaigns using 'deceptive corporate front groups' to discredit public interest efforts, he’s earned the nickname 'Dr. Evil.'
"And now, thanks to our outsized effectiveness in relation to our relatively small budget, he’s targeting us.
"We’re honored to be called one of the 'Big Green Radicals' by notorious corporate lobbyist Rick Berman through his apparent latest astroturf operation, the Environmental Policy Alliance, a 'project of the Center for Organizational Research Education.' Ever heard of it? We hadn’t either. After doing a bit of digging, we found out that the Center for Organizational Research Education was recently known as the Center for Consumer Freedom led by the head of Berman & Co. -- Rick Berman."[4]

Defending payday loans

In a March 2008 letter to the editor of The Capital Times (Madison, Wisconsin), the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF)'s Tim Miller defended the payday loan industry:

"Research shows that when politicians respond to the calls of overzealous interest groups ... to eliminate payday lending, borrowers are forced to turn to more expensive and less desirable options," he wrote. "Economists with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that after North Carolina banned payday loans, those who were experiencing financial stress turned to bounced checks, bankruptcies and delinquent bill pay." [5]

Anti-lowering blood alcohol limits

CCF runs ad campaigns against lowering the legal blood alcohol limits. According to spokesperson David Martosko:

"Government statistics and independent science confirms very clearly that the drunk driving problem in this country has been reduced to a small hard core of repeat offenders."

In fact, government statistics show that the majority of arrests are first-timers.[6]

Pro-mercury

Health advocates are "food police". In CCF ad campaigns, they take ice cream away from children and grab hot dogs out of your hand. According to Mr. Martosko, "activists are trying to scare us." One of those advocates is Dr. Jane Hightower, who published a report linking the coronary artery disease in her patients with the large amounts of tuna and swordfish they were eating. According to Dr. Hightower:

"I didn't get paid to do this study. I did it because people were not feeling well and they all had elevated mercury levels."

Her research is supported by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which warns pregnant women not to eat swordfish. However, according to David Martosko, "Dr. Hightower I think is three parts activist and one part scientist."[7]

According to a September of 2005 article in Forbes:

"(Rick Berman) has already moved onto his next topic: scares about mercury levels in fish. He'll soon be adding FishScam.com to a growing collection of Web sites that includes AnimalScam, CSPIscam and ActivistCash.com, which exposes the financing behind do-gooder groups and lefty celebrities." [8]

Anti-anti-obesity

The article further describes CCF "anti-anti-obesity" ad campaign:

"In one ad, Seinfeld "Soup Nazi" character actor Larry Thomas plays a chef who weighs customers, then barks "salad!" or "no food for you" depending on how far they push the scale. In another, heavy-handed "food police" rip an ice cream cone away from a whimpering kid, whack a beer from a man about to enjoy a sip and snuff out a hot dog on the ground." [9]

CCF attempts to counter obvious, legitimate evidence which link obesity with junk food and established itself as a respected authority on food issues. Their multi-pronged approach includes:

  • Lobbying against nutrition legislation unfriendly to industry interests.
  • Preparing well-time press releases.
  • Publishing op-ed articles and letters to the editor.
  • Advertising its views in print and electronic media. [10]

Anti-CDC

In April of 2005, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) release a study revealing that "obesity accounts for 25,814 deaths a year in the United States". These findings contradicted earlier CDC studies which suggested 365,000 annual obesity-related deaths a year.[11] In response, CCF launched a $600,000 ad campaign. The following ad ran in such major newspapers as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post and USA Today, calling "obesity" a "hype":

"Americans have been force-fed a steady diet of obesity myths by the 'food police,' trial lawyers, and even our own government." [12]

According to CCF's Mike Burita, the ad campaign was part "putting pressure on the leadership of the CDC, who has still not endorsed this new figure" for obesity-related deaths. Claiming that CCF wanted "some perspective," he added that:

"Obesity is certainly a genuine problem. But when genuine problems become political issues they tend to become exaggerated, as this has." [13]

Body Mass Index (BMI)

In early 2002, CCF ran national radio ads targeting studies on the link between food consumption and health. One ad referred to:

"red-faced picketers wielding pointed wooden sticks with signs that read 'eat tofu or die' on the way to your classic cheeseburger and fries." CCF sponsors the ObesityMyths.com website, which purports to debunk "myths" about obesity.[14]

CCF's obesity claims frequently make a straw man argument about the body mass index (BMI). The BMI is the standard, statistical measurement used to assess body mass or a a normal or desirable weight for a person's height. However, according to CCF claims, the BMI is "flawed", [15] as those with more muscle may weigh more than others of the same height, without necessarily having excess body fat. The CCF website mocks the BMI standard by listing muscular Hollywood action heroes and professional athletes; with claims that the government has deemed them "officially overweight."

In fact, the U.S. government health standards do not rely exclusively on body mass index when giving weight loss advice. According to the Obesity Education Initative of the National Heart Blood and Lung Institute explains:

"Assessment of overweight involves using three key measures: body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, and risk factors for diseases and conditions associated with obesity."

A BMI higher than 25 is considered overweight, and higher than 30 is considered obese. However, the gguidelines only recommend weight loss for people who are considered obese or who are considered overweight and have 'two or more risk factors' such as high blood pressure, high LDL-cholesterol, a family history of premature heart disease, physical inactivity or cigarette smoking.[16] Contrary to what CCF claims, these guidelines would not recommend weight loss for people such as Brad Pitt, Denzel Washington or Sylvester Stallone. CCF also loads the dice by misrepresenting the weight of many of the celebrities on its list. According to CCF, Brad Pitt is 6 feet tall and weighs 203 pounds. However, other sources list his weight at between 150 to 175 pounds. (He was at his thinnest when filming Fight Club but bulked up for the movie Troy.) [17]

Creating controversy

CCF's efforts to appear as an authority on obesity and other issues, seems to dovetail nicely with the popular media's ratings strategy of creating controversies. Incredibly, CCF is regularly consulted by journalists on health issues and often positioned as the "other side", of relatively uncontroversial issues. This, in spite of their lack of any identifiable credentials as a scientific body, their known ties with industry and their reliable position of denial and/or subterfuge on any data which does not benefit their sponsors. For example, in September of 2005, the Los Angeles Times published an article which included data concerning the increasing prevalence of obesity. The article quoted several health experts... and CCF. CCF Senior Analyst, Dan Mindus didn't disagree with the data, but cited studies showing tremendous drops in the level of children's physical activity with no evidence of higher caloric intake:

"In case after case, we see evidence kids aren't eating any more than they used to, but exercising less. It's almost too easy to blame snacks in schools when it's more difficult to try to get kids moving again." [18]

CCF also publishes well-timed, strategically placed op-ed articles in leading newspapers in order to put industry-friendly spin on potentially damning scientific studies. On August 26, 2004, CCF Director Rick Berman trashed a story published that week in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) showing a clear connection between soda consumption and diabetes in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In an article entitled "Soft Drink Hysteria Hard to Swallow," he wrote:

"Frankly, the contortions that the authors went through to demonize soda would make our own gold medal gymnasts proud."[19]

Neither Mr. Berman or the Journal-Constitution explained why CCF should be more scientifically compelling than JAMA.

Anti-menu labeling

In 2004, California state senator Deborah Ortiz introduced a menu-labeling bill that was brought down by a CCF spearheaded campaign. CCF and other major food companies complained that menu labeling was costly and ineffective. Instead, they claimed, the solution to the nation's obesity epidemic was better consumer education and personal responsibility.[20] Joining the opposition was the California Restaurant Association, which predictably argued that the proposed law "sent the wrong message about personal choices and responsibility."[21]

The bill never made it out of the Assembly Health Committee.

Anti-animal rights & welfare

Cargill, Pilgrim's Pride, Tyson Foods and two other "fresh meat" companies with major Arkansas operations donate at least $ 100,000 a year to CCF, according to documents obtained by PR Watch in 2003. Tyson confirmed financial support, but refused to elaborate on amounts or future donations. Texas based Pilgrim's Pride confirmed a $100,000 a year donation to Mr. Berman. Cargill officials confirmed donations up to $100,000. Mr. Berman declined to confirm any information on donors or amounts, citing "his prerogatives under tax laws governing nonprofits." According to Mr. Berman such a disclosure would "make them targets of radical protests by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and similar groups." He added that PR Watch documents obtained from a whistle-blower, were in part accurate, but "contained many errors." However, he would not elaborate on what those specific errors were. Particular targets of Richard Berman's and David Martosko are animal rights and welfare advocates. In a September of 2003 article by Paul Barton for the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, PETA is described by Mr. Berman as:

"radicals left over from the anti-war movement of the 1960s and '70s."[22]

PETA was founded by Ingrid Newkirk from Surrey, England and New Delhi, India and Alex Pacheco. Ms. Newkirk and her mother volunteered for Mother Theresa and other charities. She became interested in animal issues while studying to be a stockbroker in Maryland, after a neighbor abandoned some kittens. In her first job at an animal shelter, she cleaned kennels and investigated cruelty cases. Later, she served as a deputy sheriff and a Maryland state law enforcement officer with the highest success rate in convicting animal abusers. She was director of cruelty investigations for the second-oldest humane society in the U.S. She also served as chief of animal disease control for the Commission on Public Health. [23] In his teens, Alex Pacheco became involved in animal rights after a trip to a slaughterhouse. At the time, he was studying for the priesthood. Prior to this, he had been accepted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to train to become an agent. [24] PETA VP, Bruce Friedrich, graduated Phi Beta Kappa in English, economics and religious studies. He spent six years working in a Washington, DC homeless shelter and soup kitchen prior to joining PETA in 1996. [25] He is a founding member of the Society for Ethical and Religious Vegetarians and a board member of the Catholic Vegetarian Society and the Christian Vegetarian Association. [26]

Huntingdon Life Sciences

In December of 2001, PETA protested Stephens Inc.'s financing of the notorious Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS), outside of their offices in Little Rock, Arkansas. According to spokes person Frank Thomas in the same article, "the firm is not a donor". The article added that "(PETA) gets extensive funding from philanthropic foundations and charities."[27]

CCF donor Monsanto contracts animal testing out to HLS.[28] HLS is the 3rd largest contract research organization (CRO) in the world and the largest animal testing facility in all of Europe. Firms hire CROs to conduct animal toxicity tests for agrochemicals, petrochemicals, household products, pharmaceutical drugs and toxins. HLS has a long history of gross animal welfare violations. See also Huntingdon Life Sciences.

PETA's financial statement

The alleged "philanthropic foundations and charities" are also not specified. According to their financial statement, PETA is funded almost exclusively by member contributions. 80.87% of operating expenses went directly into programs addressing animal exploitation and only 15.09% was spent on fund raising and 4.04% on administration. 32% of PETA's staff earn annual salaries between $14,383 and $29,999; 44% earn $29,000 to $39,999 and only 24% earn over $39,999. PETA's president, Ingrid Newkirk, earned $36,997 in 2009. A detailed breakdown of expenses is available on their financial statement, which is independently audited.[29]

Animal welfare issues

According to the spokesperson for CCF donor Cargill, Mike Mullins:

"There are laws governing the humane treatment of animals that we follow to the letter."

Spokesmen for CCF donors Tyson Foods and Pilgrim's Pride alleged that it was:

"in their own best business interest to treat animals humanely and that stories of cruelty - such as those alleging that chickens are scalded in hot baths while still conscious, were among the many untruths that PETA spreads. Cruel treatment, besides being inhumane, degrades the quality of meat from an animal."

According to Tyson spokesman Ed Nicholson, the company has:

"a well developed animal welfare policy it is willing to give to anyone who asks and also has specially assigned staff charged with monitoring animal welfare issues."[30]

Approximately 10 billion land animals are raised and killed for food every year in the U.S. (over a million an hour). In fact, no federal law protects them from cruelty. Most states exempt "customary agricultural practices", no matter how abusive, from animal cruelty statutes. [31] Factory farmed chickens, turkeys and pigs spend their lives in dark, crowded warehouses. Often, they do not even have sufficient space to turn around and sit in their own wastes with the stench of ammonia filling the air. They are also bred and drugged to grow faster and larger than normal and become crippled under their own weight. Some factory farmed animals can barely move and die inches from their water supply. They never see the sun or get a breath of fresh air until the day they are prodded and crammed onto trucks bound for the slaughterhouse. [32] Animals being transported from farms to stock yards and slaughter houses may freeze to the walls or the floor or die of heat and suffocation in unventilated trucks. Animals being transported may be legally deprived of food and water for up to 36 hours. Animals too weak to walk on or off a live stock transport are fork lifted or dragged by chains to slaughter. [33] The Federal Humane Slaughter Act requires that all animals (excluding birds) be stunned properly prior to slaughter. However, it carries no penalties and is rarely enforced. 30 U.S. states specifically exempt "customary or normal" farming practices from the legal definition of animal cruelty. [34]

Sick pigs or "unproductive units" are immediately clubbed to death. Other methods include slamming their heads against the wall, (thumping), drowning them with a hose or standing on their necks. [35], [36] A plant worker describes pigs being scalded alive:

"After they left me, the hogs would go up a hundred-foot ramp to a tank where they're dunked in 140° water...Water any hotter than that would take the meat right off their bones...There's no way these animals can bleed out in the few minutes it takes to get up the ramp. By the time they hit the scalding tank, they're still fully conscious and squealing. Happens all the time." [37]

See also animals raised & hunted for food.

Male chicks are of no economic value to the egg industry and are therefore typically gassed or ground up alive (macerated). Maceration is an increasingly common method for disposing of male chicks. [38] Fowl, chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese are not protected under any laws regarding farm animals, including humane slaughter. [39] Fully conscious chickens and turkeys are shackled by their ankles upside-down to a moving conveyor belt. The birds are then given intensely painful electric shocks, which are intended to immobilize and make it easier to slit their throats. (Often the shocks fail to render them unconscious). After being shocked, their throats are slashed by a mechanical blade. Inevitably, the blade misses some birds, who then proceed to the next station on the assembly line, the scalding tank. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), millions of birds per year are submerged in scalding water (about 143° F) while fully conscious. [40], [41] According to Virgil Butler, a former Tyson Foods slaughterhouse worker:

"When this happens, the chickens flop, scream, kick, and their eyeballs pop out of their heads. Then, they often come out the other end with broken bones and disfigured and missing body parts because they've struggled so much in the tank." [42] See also Tyson Foods.

CCF clients, health & other issues

According to Tyson Foods:

"(CCF) provides a perspective on an issue not often seen."

According to Cargill:

"(CCF) has been addressing issues important to our customers."

According to Pilgrim's Pride Vice Chairman, Cliff Butler:

"PETA is essentially a terrorist organization. Their goal is for no more meat to be eaten. The human body was designed to run on animal protein. The good Lord designed your body to eat meat."

According to the same article, "(PETA) paints meat laden diets as major factor in causing heart disease and other leading causes of death."[43] The very clear trend of legitimate, nutritional research favors plant based (vegetarian or vegan) diets. These diets are recommended by groups such as the American Dietetic Association (ADA).[44] See also animal products & health issues. In fact, is not "radical protest" nor radicalism of any kind that corporations fear, but investigations and public exposure. CCF donors like Tyson Foods, Cargill, Dean Foods, Monsanto, Huntingdon Life Sciences, Phillip Morris and Philip Morris' CRO, Covance Laboratories, have long histories of appalling animal abuses as well as health, safety, environmental and employee abuses in the U.S. and other countries. Many of them have been investigated, documented and exposed by PETA and other animal rights and welfare groups.

For this & related CCF/animal advocacy issues, see also Richard Berman cares about animals: clients exposed.

References

  1. Dr. Joe Perrone, Center for Accountability in Science, Center for Organizational Research and Education, Read with Some Skepticism, Detroit News, August 18, 2014.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Berman Enlists Industry Scientist for Latest Project, Flip-Flops on Cancer Risk of Tanning, organizational blog entry, August 22, 2014.
  3. Big Green Radicals ad, Wall Street Journal, March 6, 2014.
  4. Darcey Rakestraw, Food & Water Watch, Rick Berman Strikes Again With Environmental Policy Alliance, organizational blog, March 6, 2014.
  5. Tim Miller Payday Loans a Helpful Option for Consumers," Letter to the editor, The Capital Times (Madison, WI), March 7, 2008.
  6. Mark Matthews Lobbyists Hide Behind Non-Profit Fronts, ABC News/KGO San Francisco, May 3, 2006
  7. Mark Matthews Lobbyists Hide Behind Non-Profit Fronts, ABC News/KGO San Francisco, May 3, 2006
  8. Seth Lubove, "Food Fight," , Forbes, September 2005
  9. Seth Lubove, "Food Fight," , Forbes, September 2005
  10. Michele Simon Appetite for Profit: How the Food Industry Undermines Our Health and How to Fight Back, pg 173, Nation Books, October 2006
  11. Marilynn Marchione Obesity is health threat, CDC says, Associated Press, June 3, 2005
  12. Obesity Hype, Center for Consumer Freedom, April 2005
  13. Restaurant/Food Processors/Alcohol Front Group Runs Flat Earth Ads on Health, Reuters, April 2005
  14. WHOIS Search Results. Network Solutions. Retrieved on September 18, 2008.
  15. Government Warning: Tinseltown Hunks Are Actually Hollywood Chunks. Center for Consumer Freedom (July 16, 2004). Retrieved on September 18, 2008.
  16. Aim for a Healthy Weight: Assessing Your Risk. National Heart Blood and Lung Institute. Retrieved on September 18, 2008.
  17. How Brad Pitt got in shape for films like Fight Club and Troy. Sixpacknow.com. Retrieved on September 18, 2008.
  18. Carla Rivera "Childhood Obesity Off the Scale in California" Los Angeles Times, September 9, 2005
  19. Rick Berman "Soft Drink Hysteria Hard to Swallow", Atlanta Journal-Constitution August 26, 2004
  20. Michele Simon Appetite for Profit: How the Food Industry Undermines Our Health and How to Fight Back (Nation Books, 2006), 199
  21. Dorsey Griffith "Food Industry Puts its Weight into Obesity Fight", Sacramento Bee, May 24, 2004
  22. Paul Barton Poultry firms side with lobbyist in PR battle with animal-welfare group, Arkansas Democrat Gazette, September 2003
  23. Ingrid Newkirk's Biography, IngridNewkirk.com, accessed February 2009
  24. Animal Welfare, Humane and Animal Rights Advisory Board, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, accessed October 20, 2009.
  25. Bruce Friedrich, Wikipedia, accessed December 2008
  26. Advisory board, Christian Vegetarian Association, 2007
  27. Paul Barton Poultry firms side with lobbyist in PR battle with animal-welfare group, Arkansas Democrat Gazette, September 2003
  28. Inside Customers, SHAC.net, accessed December 2009
  29. About: Financial Reports, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, accessed January 2011
  30. Paul Barton Poultry firms side with lobbyist in PR battle with animal-welfare group, Arkansas Democrat Gazette, September 2003
  31. About Farm Animals and Factory Farming, Humane Society of the United States, 2005
  32. Vegetarian 101, PETA.org, accessed February 2009
  33. Transport and Stockyards, Veganoutreach.org, accessed January 2009
  34. David J. Wolfson Beyond the Law: Agribusiness and the Systemic Abuse of Animals Raised for Food or Food Production, Farm Sanctuary, 1999
  35. B. Israelsen, Circle Four workers quit, decry inhumane conditions in Utah hog production factory, Salt Lake Tribune, January 2003
  36. Petition for enforcement of South Dakota animal cruelty laws at Sun Prairie confinement hog factory—Rosebud Sioux Reservation, Humane Farming Association, 2004
  37. Gail Eisnitz Slaughterhouse: The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect, and Inhumane Treatment Inside the U.S. Meat Industry, p. 71, December 1997,
  38. Factory Farms, Veganoutreach.org, accessed January 2009
  39. Factory Farming Campaign: Eating for Animals, HSUS, accessed February 2009
  40. Meat and Poultry Inspection Manual, Part 11, U.S. Department of Agriculture
  41. Chickens Condemned Postmortem in USDA inspected establishments, Animal Disposition Reporting System (ADRS), USDA, 2001
  42. Chickens and turkeys: bred for pain, Mercy for Animals, accessed June 2009
  43. Paul Barton Poultry firms side with lobbyist in PR battle with animal-welfare group, Arkansas Democrat Gazette, September 2003
  44. Vegetarian Diets, American Dietetic Association, Volume 109, Issue 7, Pages 1266-1282, July 2009