Rick Berman profits from nonprofits

Nonprofit regulations are intended to ensure that nonprofit organizations exist for the public benefit, and not for the enrichment of its creators.

But when Richard Berman creates nonprofit organizations with a dubious purpose, and diverts tax exempt donations into his own coffers, he circumvents the accountability that’s meant to protect the public from fraud and abuse.

That’s why Marcus Owens, former director of the IRS Exempt Organizations Division, says that Berman’s evasive scheme “clearly, in my view, is operating for his private benefit and for the private benefit of his clients… [That’s] a clear violation of the requirements for tax-exempt status.”

We tallied the payments to Berman and his for-profit PR firm from six of the nonprofit front groups he has created: the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF), Center for Union Facts (CUF), Employment Policies Institute Foundation (EPI), American Beverage Institute (ABI), Employee Freedom Action Committee (EFAC), and the Humane Society for Shelter Pets (HSSP).

The results are shocking.

Payments to Richard Berman or Berman and Company, Inc.


Since 2002, Rick Berman has diverted over $35 million in supposedly nonprofit donations into his personal and corporate bank accounts. In some years, as much as 93% of an organization’s revenue has been funneled into personal gain.

Berman has not yet been held accountable for his abuse of nonprofit tax code. It’s a sad indictment of the Internal Revenue Service, its inability enforce its own regulations fairly and consistently, and its unwillingness to protect consumers.

To the see the raw numbers we used, consult the Form 990 tax returns for Berman’s organizations. These forms are gathered for your convenience in our Document Library, or you may obtain them from independent charity evaluators like Guidestar.org.

The relevant figures used in this table are:

  • Gross Receipts: Line G
  • Berman’s token salary: Part VII, Section A
  • Funds diverted to Berman and Company, Inc.: Part VII, Section B (Independent Contractors)
  • Grants to Berman-run organizations: Schedule I

Further reading

Another Weak Thread in Berman’s Web of Lies

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has been a perpetual thorn in Richard Berman’s side. For years, they have exposed his questionable nonprofits and ripped the mask off his industry-funded front groups.

Berman’s groups depend on deception and anonymity to perpetuate their misinformation, so every time CREW points out the artificial nature of Berman’s astroturf, the gnashing of teeth can be heard clearly throughout Berman & Company’s office.

CREW’s effectiveness in elevating Berman’s blood pressure can be seen in CCF’s newest smear campaign, CrewExposed.com. The deceptive website adds to a list of more than 100 dishonest front groups and campaigns run by the D.C. lobbyist and PR millionaire.

Berman’s anti-ethics website boasts that it’s funded by “donations from foundations” (likely Berman himself). The main thrust of the website’s misinformation is that CREW targets a disproportionate number of right-wing politicians and groups. That’s not surprising given Berman’s long-standing connections to extreme right-wing political groups and causes, especially those undermining worker benefits and wages. The “proof” presented on the site consist of the usual Berman dirty tactics: innuendo and misleading, cherry-picked statistics.

Good luck with that, Rick. CREW has more integrity, respect, and credibility than the liars for hire at your PR firm ever will.

For example, CREW has never tried to pass off an opera singer with a criminal record as a research expert.

They have never impersonated medical professionals on blogs in order to lie about their credibility.

They have never diverted millions of dollars in donations to unrelated right-wing causes, and they don’t funnel millions of dollars into the founders’ bank accounts through questionable nonprofit schemes.

They have never defamed rescuers, they have never advocated discrimination against AIDS patients, they have never been forced to retract false accusations of terrorism, never had their official YouTube channel shut down for abuse, never been blasted by a news organization for lying to reporters, never had to settle a libel suit to avoid a massive judgment…

Can you and your corporate front groups say the same, Rick?

No, you cannot.

Stopping Facebook Harassment

Several members of the Stop HumaneWatch group on Facebook have contacted us about notices they received, warning that their screen shots or other content have been removed for “copyright infringement”. Anti-activist terrorism is a common tactic of HumaneWatch members. When they can’t counter the facts, they resort to lies, harassment, and intimidation to protect their alleged right to abuse animals. But that doesn’t mean you have to sit there and take it. The screenshot above, taken from HumaneWatch, is one example of content that was falsely reported as copyright infringement. The comment on the screenshot pointed out that HumaneWatch has yet to confront any of the animal abusers and admitted animal killers frequenting its pages. That didn’t sit too well with the originator of the comment, who didn’t like her hypocrisy being exposed. She filed a false DMCA copyright infringement complaint through Facebook’s automated system in an attempt to suppress our free speech. That was a crime (perjury) as well as a violation of Facebook’s Terms of Service. According to the copy of the complaint forwarded by Facebook, she complained on the grounds that “A copywrited [sic] photograph that belongs to me is being used by an individual and a group without my permission… The photo in my avatar is copywrited [sic] and belongs to me. I did not give this group permission to use a screen shot of my photo.” Here are the facts. HumaneWatchers cannot claim copyright infringement on a comment or a profile picture that they have posted to Facebook, because they expressly gave you permission to repost it. That’s in the Facebook Terms of Service, Section 2.4:
When you publish content or information using the everyone setting, it means that you are allowing everyone, including people off of Facebook, to access and use that information, and to associate it with you (i.e., your name and profile picture).
Got that? If they’ve posted it publicly on Facebook, they have granted you permission to reprint it, to share it anywhere on or off of Facebook, and to associate it with their name and profile picture. So, what do you do if someone has filed a fraudulent copyright complaint against you? Your first clue that something is wrong will probably come from the stern warning on Facebook telling you that your content has been removed, and warning you that if you continue to violate Facebook Terms of Service, you could be exiled from Facebook. They’ll require you to mark the checkbox acknowledging that you’ve read the warning. Being unfairly accused of wrongdoing is infuriating, and a little intimidating. That’s the intent of the harassment. But keep in mind that (a) you’re innocent, (b) it’s an automated system with no ability to make intelligent judgments, and (c) it ultimately means nothing, since you’re about to clear your name and turn the tables on your harasser. The warning will contain a link to Facebook’s DMCA Counter-Notice Form. Click that link. You’ll be asked to provide your contact information, and this may be provided to the person who filed the complaint. The address required is just a point of contact, so feel free to use a PO Box, maildrop, or other intermediary address if you’re not comfortable releasing that information. In the box asking why Facebook was wrong to remove the content, you can copy and paste the following:
The content is not an original work of authorship as defined by 17 U.S.C. Sec. 101 et seq., and is not subject to the DMCA. Furthermore, use of the content was expressly permitted by Facebook Terms of Service Sec. 2.4, which reads: “When you publish content or information using the everyone setting, it means that you are allowing everyone, including people off of Facebook, to access and use that information, and to associate it with you (i.e., your name and profile picture).”
In a day or two, Facebook will contact you by email to confirm that you are filing a counterclaim. You may need to repeat that information in your reply, and you may need to remind Facebook of their own Terms of Service. Be patient, be polite. Once Facebook’s staff has gathered the information they need to determine that the claim was false, they will notify the harasser of your counterclaim, and will restore the content within 14 days. You can also repost the content before that time, since it has been cleared by Facebook and they have agreed to stop blocking it. Any false claims from the harasser may result in the closure of their account, so be sure to ask Facebook’s staff to pursue disciplinary action against the complainant. If this has happened before, include that information in your report. Filing false abuse reports is not just a violation of Facebook’s Terms of Service, it’s a crime. Stand up for your rights, and make those HumaneHaters eat their words!

HumaneWatch lies, so shelter pets die

Six million to eight million animals enter our nation's animal shelters each year.

Gloating by the industry-funded hate group HumaneWatch ran thick this week after the Platte Valley Humane Society in Nebraska turned down a $5,000 grant from the Humane Society of the United States. Although the grant totaled almost half of what the shelter garners through its largest fund-raising event each year, shelter management felt they could not take the money. “We thought that maybe we should just bow out and not accept these funds and maybe we wouldn’t be crossing any feelings of people who are advocates and those in the industry,” board president Steve McClure said. In other words, board members were so intimidated by the misinformation spread by HumaneWatch and the industrial agribusiness interests it represents that they turned down the money rather than risk alienating factory farmers in the area. This is all part of the HumaneWatch strategy: to turn one animal protection charity against another. While these groups are distracted by infighting, the puppy mills and factory farms that the HSUS confronts are free to continue profiting from animal cruelty. HumaneWatch’s attacks haven’t stopped the HSUS, ASPCA, or other national groups from confronting cruelty to animals, but they have hurt local shelters — and animals. $5,000 could spell the difference between life and death for hundreds of shelter pets. A new adoption campaign. A new paint job to welcome adopters. Medical treatment. Personnel. Enrichment. Housing. All these items so key to no-kill goals were lost, solely because of HumaneWatch lies. Add it to the toll of suffering caused by the puppy mills, factory farms, furriers, seal clubbers, horse slaughterers, and other animal cruelty they are paid to defend. HumaneWatch lies, so shelter pets die.

Meet the new boss … same as the old boss?

Retraction and Clarification

On May 19, 2011, HumaneWatch Info published a blog entry about Will Coggin, a Berman and Company employee. The post described Coggin’s involvement in a series of controversies during his college days at the College of William and Mary.

Unfortunately, we got many of the details wrong, unintentionally confusing the facts of two separate controversies, as well as the nature of Coggin’s involvement in each.

The staff of HumaneWatch Info prides itself on honesty and accuracy, and we sincerely regret any confusion resulting from the erroneous statements. We have removed the erroneous blog post and offer the following collection of third-party reports in its stead. We invite you to read through the facts of these cases and to evaluate the context, extent and propriety of Coggin’s involvement in these scandals for yourself.

We close with a final note regarding Richard Berman. Mr. Berman — through his attorneys — objects to our opinion that he is a “liar for hire”. This does not change our view of his ethics in the slightest. However, we feel compelled to clarify that the misleading statements we alluded to were in fact issued through his PR firm and its many front groups, and we cannot attribute them to Mr. Berman directly. We therefore withdraw our characterization of him as a liar, and clarify that he is the head of an empire of more than 100 industry-funded front groups and campaigns based on deception and dishonesty.

We trust this will soothe Mr. Berman’s wounded ego, and allow him to continue waging war against the health of Americans and the welfare of animals everywhere.

Sons of Liberty Remorseful about Game, but Pleased with Dialogue
Last week the Sons of Liberty saga continued in a series of meetings with students, the Student Assembly and the administration. The spillover stemmed from the 8 November anti-affirmative action bake sale at which the Sons of Liberty, an official student organization, sold cookies and brownies in groups of four for $1 for whites, $0.75 for Asians, $0.50 for African Americans and Hispanics and $0.25 for Native Americans, while playing a game called “Ghettopoly,” viewed by many to be racist and offensive.
Bake Sale Reignites Controversy
“I guess by the technical, legal definition we did discriminate,” Coggin said.
Affirmative action policies on stage at University Center
Will Coggin (l), president and co-founder of the Sons of Liberty, and Adam McCool offer treats for purchase at race-weighted prices.

Rape Charges Dropped In W&m Assault Case
A frat party rape case that sparked a study of alcohol use at the College of William and Mary last fall ended Wednesday when all the sexual assault charges were dropped, and the man accused of the rape pleaded guilty to two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Woman files $800,000 defamation lawsuit against student newspaper
A student newspaper is being sued for $800,000 on allegations that the paper published defamatory statements last year about a rape victim. […]Remnant editor-in-chief Will Coggin did not return calls for comment, but he told the Daily Press Thursday afternoon that the newspaper staff would review the complaint today. ”We feel like we’ve done everything right,” Coggin said in the article. ”We’re prepared to defend ourselves.” The Remnant ran into trouble in February when newspaper staff posted fliers around campus naming another alleged rape victim.
Student Publication Sued
The Remnant wrote, “[P]olice are speculating that like many other wannabe victims and con artists, [Desiree Nall, president of the Brevard Chapter of the National Organization for Women] was trying to draw attention to an issue she thought was important,” in the story in question from the issues “Nasty, Brutish, and Short” section. The story continues, “Fortunately, in this case, a specific persons name was not dragged through the mud, unlike the case of Kenneth Ian Lang, the only real victim from last years fiasco. The Remnant is grateful that this fraud is being charged and urges the same for the girl who lied last year.”
Woman Sues W&m Newspaper, Staff
Remnant Editor in Chief Will Coggin said Thursday afternoon that he was unaware of the lawsuit. He could not be reached Friday. “We feel like we’ve done everything right,” Coggin said Thursday. “We’re prepared to defend ourselves.” […]The Daily Press is withholding the woman’s name because the newspaper generally does not identify people who say they have been raped.
Circuit Court for Williamsburg/James City County The Remnant, Kevin DeAnna, Marcus Epstein, Will Coggin, Liz Kveselis, George McCallister, Defendants.

Assault Gets Even Uglier: Controversy escalates over sexual violence on campus.
On February 15, students saw more flyers. This time, however, the flyers announced a news exclusive by The Remnant about developments in the now infamous rape case. Vague new sources reportedly revealed inconsistencies in the accuser’s version of events. A web link to a more detailed online article appeared at the bottom of the flyer. “Until now, students knew precious little about the specifics of what occurred that night. Statements by some of the involved parties, obtained by The Remnant, specify some of the critical facts that caused the charges against [the accused] to be dropped,” Coggin stated in a press release on February 15. Defending the continued coverage, he said, “The student body needs to be kept informed on this crucial matter.” […]Neither the flyer nor website coverage included the source of the so-called “breaking news.” In fact, the source calling into question the events was the civil lawsuit filed by the accused. The Remnant report omitted this important fact, but included unnecessary details about the accuser, including her home address.
Employee wrong to tear down student newspaper fliers, university says
A newspaper editor used an early-morning stakeout to catch a university employee last week in the act of tearing down fliers posted by newspaper staff that named an alleged rape victim. Will Coggin, editor of The Remnant, a student newspaper at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., waited for more than two hours in the chilly morning air before spying a university employee who removed several fliers from a communal posting board at about 7 a.m. Coggin said when he ran up to the employee and confronted him about tearing down the fliers, the man said he had been instructed to remove “foul material.” Coggin then followed the employee, snapping photos with his digital camera as the man threw away a handful of fliers and retreated to a campus facilities building. He said after he followed the man to his office, peppering him with questions, the employee threatened to have him arrested if he did not leave the premises.
Judge Dismisses Defamation Suit Against W&m Rape Accuser
A dismissal order signed by Charles City County Judge Thomas Hoover on Sept. 5 states that the case was dismissed without prejudice “upon agreement of the parties.” The suit stems from an Oct. 28, 2005, incident at an off-campus sorority party hosted by John Gerdelman, a member of the university’s Board of Visitors. A 20-year-old female student accused then-senior Patrick Decker of raping her, but the charges were dropped Jan. 4, after prosecutors found conflicting and insufficient evidence to support a charge.


Meet a CCF Minion
While in college, Coggin was also the editor of a student libertarian newspaper, The Remnant. A woman who reported that she had been raped sued Coggin and the paper for “embarrassment, humiliation and mental suffering” following articles that he published about her implying that she was lying.