Big Green Radicals
This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on front groups and corporate spin.
Big Green Radicals is a front group operated by the PR firm Berman & Co. Berman & Co. operates a network of dozens of front groups, attack-dog web sites, and alleged think tanks that work to counteract minimum wage campaigns, keep wages low for restaurant workers, and to block legislation on food safety, secondhand cigarette smoke, drunk driving, and more.
Big Green Radicals describes itself as "a project of the Environmental Policy Alliance (EPA), which exists to educate the public about the real agenda of well-funded environmental activist groups" according its website. "The EPA receives support from individuals, businesses, and foundations."
According to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Big Green Radicals "attacks environmental advocacy groups, particularly the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, and Food & Water Watch."
Attack on Anti-Fracking Groups in Colorado
In May 2014, Big Green Radicals launched a PR campaign against various Colorado groups seeking to block fracking in the state, calling it "ground zero" in the fracking debate. BGR sought to define the groups -- including the Colorado branches of Food & Water Watch, Water Defense, and Sierra Club, as well as Americans Against Fracking and Artists Against Fracking -- as astroturf organizations, groups that claim to be grassroots but are really primarily created by special interests.
Big Green Radicals further asserted that these "extreme groups, mostly based far from Colorado in San Francisco, New York, or Washington D.C., are spending millions and spreading their anti-science message to scare voters into approving ballot measures in November to send the oil and gas industry (and the jobs and affordable energy it provides) packing from the Centennial State."
At a June 2014 Western Energy Alliance event including representatives from Anadarko Petroleum, Halliburton Company, ExxonMobil, Devon Energy, and Noble Energy, Berman himself told the gathered fracking executives they "must be willing to exploit emotions like fear, greed and anger and turn them against the environmental groups" opposed to fracking, according to the New York Times, which obtained leaked audio of the speech. "And major corporations secretly financing such a campaign should not worry about offending the general public because 'you can either win ugly or lose pretty,' he said."
"Think of this as an endless war," Berman told the group. "And you have to budget for it."
Berman "offered companies a way to anonymously target their environmental foes -- at a cost of as much as $3 million" just to fight Colorado's proposed fracking bans according to Bloomberg, which also obtained the audio. And that $2 to $3 million "would be spent in addition to the 'positive campaign' companies were running," he said.
According to Bloomberg, Berman "played an advertisement that showed one activist blaming fracking for his overeating and another for the fact that his sock-puppet, Mr. Snuggles, was ignoring him. The ad was posted online and ran on television a few weeks later, according to a Denver Post article."
"What people always want to do is they want to know who funds me so they can attack the funder," Berman told the Western Energy Alliance. "We run all of this stuff through nonprofit organizations that are insulated from having to disclose donors."
The Environmental Policy Alliance
1090 Vermont Ave., NW Suite 800
Washington, DC 20005
Phone: (202) 420-7875
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- Environmental Policy Alliance, Big Green Radicals About Us page, BigGreenRadicals.com, accessed June 9, 2014.
- Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Berman Exposed, BermanExposed.org, accessed June 9, 2014.
- Environmental Policy Alliance, Big Green Radicals Colorado page, BigGreenRadicals.com, accessed June 12, 2014.
- Eric Lipton, Hard-Nosed Advice From Veteran Lobbyist: ‘Win Ugly or Lose Pretty’, New York Times, October 30, 2014.
- Mark Drajem, Fracking Advocates Urged to Win Ugly by Discrediting Foes, Bloomberg, October 30, 2014.