Center for Consumer Deception
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  • Box Bottom
    The Media Speaks Out Against the CCF

    "While it bills itself as 'devoted to promoting personal responsibility and protecting consumer choices,' others describe it variously as a front group, PR agency or tool for the restaurant and alcohol industries."

    —The San Francisco Chronicle

    Find out what others are saying.
    Box Bottom

    Quotes Regarding Rick Berman: Negative, Positive, and Incriminating


    "Because the truth and facts do not support the message he is spreading, he must resort to provocative, hateful rhetoric. Mr. Berman's race-baiting, racist tactics only serve to inflame and divide our communities. There is a reason why his supporters and clients remain faceless and nameless. They are ashamed to be publicly associated with him."
    —Richard Weiss, spokesperson for Laborers-Employers Education & Cooperation Trust

    "[Will Coggin, managing director of the Center for Consumer Freedom] said, for example, his group also opposed former [New York City] Mayor [Michael] Bloomberg's attempted ban of large-size sodas and, in general, opposes the so-called 'nanny state.'"
    —Lincoln Anderson, The Village Sun

    "He sets up non-profits to advocate on behalf of corporate clients without having to reveal their identities—all while making a hefty profit for himself."
    —Greg B. Smith, New York Daily News

    "He makes it so you're going to be confused."
    —Melanie Sloan, former director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics

    "While he is a wholly unprincipled little man, he's just a self-serving huckster who grubs for corporate dollars by offering to do their dirty PR work. His specialty is taking secret funding from major corporations to publicly slime environmentalists, low-wage workers and anyone else perceived by his corporate clients as enemies."
    —Jim Hightower, former elected commissioner of the Texas Department of Agriculture

    "He's not bound by truth. He's out there to just win."
    —Robert Kenner, filmmaker of Merchants of Doubt and Food, Inc.

    "In the food world, I kept bumping into groups like 'Center for Consumer Freedom' that were doing everything in their power to keep us from knowing what's in our food—it was Orwellian."
    —Robert Kenner, filmmaker of Merchants of Doubt and Food, Inc.

    "The Center for Consumer Freedom also boasts a civic and innocuous-sounding name. In reality, it's a nonprofit enabler for soda-guzzlers and junk-food-lovers."
    —Janine R. Wedel, professor at George Mason University's School of Policy, Government and International Affairs

    "These groups present themselves as unbiased experts seeking to inform the public, in reality they are little more than front groups for Berman's industry clients."
    —Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington

    "Mr. Berman's tactics can backfire, as the Indoor Tanning Association (ITA)...learned the hard way. In 2007, the trade association hired BCI (Berman and Co, Inc.) to launch an aggressive campaign aimed at promoting indoor tanning and pushing back against the industry's detractors. Mr. Berman delivered a flashy campaign, but the ultimate result for the ITA was a crackdown by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and a $500,000 legal bill."
    —Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington

    "[I]internal company documents show that members of Mr. Berman's team—at least when they have been involved in some of the other corporate-backed projects—have discussed ways to massage academic data to change outcomes."
    The New York Times

    "They are trying to peddle an industry wish list, but mask it as if they are independent experts. They are little more than phony experts on retainer."
    —Lisa Graves of PR Watch, referring to Berman's Employment Policies Institute

    "CCF is the attack dog of the food industry. They engage in numerous dirty tactics that its funders would never conduct on their own."
    A Guide to Food Industry Front Groups, a report from The Center for Food Safety

    "Unlike a lobbyist who files a report declaring which legislation he is trying to influence, Berman works on behalf of unnamed backers and tries to shape public perceptions about his targets."
    The Boston Globe

    "[T]he Center for Consumer Freedom [is] an organization that, despite its name, represents large corporations' interests far more than it does consumers' interests."
    —Fedele Bauccio, CEO of Bon Appétit Management Company, a multimillion-dollar food service company

    "[F]armers who heed Berman will likely lose substantial business in the near future."
    —Fedele Bauccio, CEO of Bon Appétit Management Company

    "During our analysis of this charity's FYE 2010 Form 990, the document revealed that the majority of the Center for Consumer Freedom's program expenses are being directed to its CEO Richard Berman's for-profit management company, Berman and Company. ... We find such practices atypical as compared to how other charities operate and have therefore issued this Donor Advisory."
    —Charity Navigator, a nonprofit organization that evaluates the financial health, accountability, and transparency of thousands of America's charities

    "Berman and Co. [is] the 'communications firm' that specializes in the creation of shadowy front groups and biased 'research' for their clients in major industries."
    —Alex Pareene, political writer for

    "Rick Berman has set up a PR machine on behalf of the restaurant, tobacco, and alcohol industry that presents itself as a consumer protection group, tries to discredit any kind of investigation or legislation that might cut into industry profits, yells and screams about the allegedly shady funding behind "activist" groups, enjoys tax-exempt status as a non-profit organization, and pays its largest yearly fees into Rick Berman's pockets."
    —Nancy Goldstein, columnist for RawStoryQ

    "Berman's a real bottom feeder."
    —Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI)

    "The Center for Consumer Freedom has absolutely nothing to do with consumers, but it has everything to do with maximizing profits for major restaurant-and-bar chains."
    —Michael Jacobson, executive director of the CSPI

    "CCF is one of a shadowy trio of tax-exempt front groups run by Washington lobbyist Richard Berman."
    —CSPI's website at

    "Notwithstanding the obvious contradictions and transparently self-serving nature of the arguments that Berman serves up, he has been successful in influencing Congress."
    —, a website maintained by the Center for Media & Democracy

    "The so-called Center for Consumer Freedom deceives the American people every day of the week by posing as a consumer group, when it's really a front group that does PR dirty work for the restaurant and tavern [industries]."
    —Michael Jacobson, executive director of the CSPI

    "CCF's client companies want consumers—and their kids, evidently—to have less information about their food choices, not more. CCF is anti-parent, anti-kid, anti-health, and anti-truth. The restaurants that fund CCF should be ashamed."
    —Michael Jacobson, executive director of the CSPI

    "Anyone who criticizes tobacco, alcohol, fatty foods, or soda pop is likely to come under attack from Berman's front groups."

    "The conservative EPI, financed mostly by low-wage companies such as hotels and restaurants, is issuing reports the titles of which alone could help put a bright face on the miserable job scene."
    Los Angeles Times Business Columnist Harry Bernstein, referring to the Employment Policies Institute's use of "misleading studies" to put a positive spin on rising unemployment in 1992

    "It is hypocritical in the extreme, of course, for [CCF's website] to 'expose' the funding of others, while keeping the details of its own finances hidden to conceal the fact that its funding comes from the very industries that share a vested interest in attacking activists."
    —Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber on

    "Does Berman live in a glass house? Is he running a shell game or self-dealing? Is moving the majority of donations from a non-profit [that] you run to a for-profit [that] you own what the IRS intended for non-profit status? It may all be perfectly legal, but there's an Enron-esque feeling to it—and Berman is currently acting like he REALLY doesn't want this information out there."
    —Jeff Nelson, president of VegSource Interactive Inc.

    "[Even] a stopped clock is right twice a day."
    —Jeff Nelson, president of VegSource Interactive Inc.

    "Rick, it's my opinion that you are anti-parent as well as anti-consumer. You're a lobbyist who's been paid by the food, beverage and tobacco industries. When a school district or official tries to remove from school grounds a machine that dispenses high-sugar caffeinated beverages to children, you scream about 'freedom.' Apparently your view is [that] the freedom of your funders to sell these harmful products in the schools trumps the rights of parents who don't want their children to consume them. You're apparently unconcerned about the epidemic of type 2 diabetes among our nations' children."
    —Jeff Nelson, president of VegSource Interactive Inc.

    "Remember those 'scientists' the Tobacco Institute used to pay to run around saying there was no link between smoking and cancer? The studies you champion and promote often remind me of the dangerous nonsense they used to spout."
    —Jeff Nelson, president of VegSource Interactive Inc.

    "I find most of his business views anti-safety and anti-health. Indeed, he has been a one-man wrecking crew on important issues like 0.08."
    —Chuck Hurley, public affairs executive director of the National Safety Council

    "He is a tough opponent, but his criticisms often are sophomoric, crude, and simple-minded and sometimes undermine his credibility, although his clients certainly appreciate his efforts."
    —Michael Jacobson, executive director of the CSPI

    "Berman tries to paint things in a misleading fashion. He puts on a misleading front."
    —Jeff Kerr, attorney for PETA

    "It ought to call itself the Center for Corporate Freedom."
    —Jeff Cronin, the Center for Science in the Public Interest

    "Berman … declines to confirm which companies donate to him or in what amounts."
    —Paul Barton, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette


    "The coalition [run by Berman and Company] is probably the best lobbying coalition in Washington."
    —Mark De Bernardo, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

    "Rick takes an overwhelmingly complex situation and transforms it into a focused political game plan, quickly zeroing in on just the critical points. In short, he protects our interests to the hilt."
    —Norm Brinker, founder of Steak and Ale and Chili's restaurant chains and former employer of Rick Berman

    "I've debated a lot of management people, and Berman is by far the toughest one to reckon with. He is articulate, funny, dynamic, aggressive and polished—a real street fighter."
    —Richard Bensinger, labor union consultant

    "I've worked with Rick for years, and indeed he is a lightning rod. People have strong feelings about him, but he helps the industry."
    —Lee Culpepper of the National Restaurant Association


    "His proposed solution would broaden the focus of the 'smoking issue,' and expand into the bigger picture of over-regulation."
    —Summary of Berman's approach taken from an internal Philip Morris memo from Barbara Trach to Ellen Merlo, which notes that Berman came highly recommended by executives at Miller Beer Company. In 1995, Berman solicited $600,000 from Philip Morris U.S.A. to start Guest Choice Network (now the Center for Consumer Freedom).

    "[The] difference in our style from traditional lobbyists [is] that we always have a knife in our teeth."
    Rick Berman, taken from a 1999 interview with Charles Bernstein of Chain Leader, a trade publication for restaurant chains

    "The fact is that [activists] drive consumer behavior on meat, alcohol, fat, sugar, tobacco and caffeine … Our offensive strategy is to shoot the messenger … [We've] got to attack their credibility as spokepersons."
    Rick Berman in Chain Leader

    "We can't tell him what to do. He has to know what to do and what's going on. We don't want reportable activities. We can't direct him … can't tell him what to do … he needs to drive actions himself. No control on our end. Minimize written corresp."
    —Handwritten notes on Philip Morris interoffice memo from Barbara Trach to Ellen Merlo with the subject "Guest Choice Network" dated December 15, 1995. A $600,000 "donation" followed this memo.

    "Specifically, we recommend that we establish a restaurant-driven program that connects instantly with restaurant operators. (Additional benefit—if externally perceived as driven by restaurant interests, there will be more flexibility and creativity allowed than if it is 'owned' by Philip Morris. The American Beverage institute, which opposes overly aggressive DWI laws, enjoys this profile.)"
    Rick Berman in a letter to Philip Morris dated September 5, 1995

    "[Guest Choice] has other attributes as well. Its acceptance will be partially driven by the pre-selling of its identity. 'Guest focus' is a common mantra in the restaurant industry. 'Choice' is the positive operative word in many current contexts, e.g., abortion, health care. You immediately access the high road by being associated with 'choice.'"
    Rick Berman in a letter to Philip Morris dated September 5, 1995

    "[Guest Choice] has another big advantage over the [Accommodation Program]. It can be sold to industry operators as being potentially broader than smoking. Food and drink issues are continually being toyed with by government. GC therefore becomes easily understood as another 'Government Choice vs. Guest Choice' paradigm that taps into existing strongly held beliefs."
    Rick Berman in a letter to Philip Morris dated September 5, 1995