OK folks time to connect the dots.
What does the Humane Society of the United States, a Super Bowl ad, Dr. Evil, Peter T. Paul college of business and economics at UNH and a sudden USDA data purge have in common? Settle in and get out your graph paper.
Did you see this ad that ran just before the start of the Super Bowl?
Are you angry or confused about the Humane Society now? Before you jump to any conclusions, let me tell you about the political hacks that produced the ad, why I think it happened, and how this duplicitous ad relates to New Hampshire politics.
Where The Advertisement Came From
The two-minute ad was created by HumaneWatch.org, a “project” of the Center for Consumer Freedom. According to their website, HumaneWatch.org is “Keeping a watchful eye on the Humane Society of the United States.”
In reality, the Center for Consumer Freedom is nothing more than one of many PR websites for a non-profit front group created by Rick Berman and Company, and is designed to spread misinformation or outright lies about the Humane Society.
If truth in advertising mattered, the more accurate name for Mr. Berman’s operations could be Lies R Us! Mr. Berman revels in marketing and selling lies.
Wearing one of his many highly paid PR hats, talking to energy executives in 2014,
“Mr. Berman said in his speech, (companies) must be willing to exploit emotions like fear, greed and anger and turn them against the environmental groups. 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.” (New York Times, 2014)
Other Rick Berman non-profit front groups include: The Employment Policies Institute, Union Facts, PETA Kills Animals, Maternity Pens, and dozens more.
Rick Berman, aka Dr. Evil, is the CEO of Berman and Company, a D.C. based public relations firm that specializes in taking money from corporations and industry lobbyists to create a PR campaign against proposed legislation.
“Masquerading as a legitimate non-profit organization, the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) is a front group for corporations trying to thwart animal welfare, environmental, and other public interest reforms,” stated the website WhoAttacksHSUS.org.
Berman creates a non-profit front group, which is funded with dark/secret money from his corporate friends, and then he pays himself to run the non-profit as their Executive Director.
“According to CCF’s 2008 tax filing, 92 percent of all revenue taken in by CCF went straight into the pockets of Berman and his for-profit PR firm which appears to be nothing less than a personal enrichment scheme,” added WhoAttacksHSUS.org.
The non-profit front group then creates a website and funds researchers in their think-tanks to manufacture reports that lobbyists can then use to sway legislators and push in op-eds against the proposed legislation.
Berman then goes on TV, using any one of his dozens of non-profit Executive Director titles, to push his propaganda through the media as the “opposing view.” Berman never discloses that he is being paid by corporations and industry lobbyists to spread his misinformation.
Berman and Company have been using this formula to thwart any increase in the minimum wage for over 25 years. Berman has an accomplice in his minimum wage fight, an economist by the name of Joseph Sabia (aside: Berman’s go to guy, was recently hired by the Peter T. Paul college of Business and Economics at UNH,) who is brought on to create questionable reports showing how raising the minimum wage would hurt low-wage workers and kill jobs. Writing economic papers for Berman has its benefits. Sabia has collected over $200,000 in grant money from Berman’s group in the last eight years.
(More on Sabia and Peter T. Paul in a minute)
The Humane Society of the United States Becomes The Target
So why did Berman, a paid shill for the industry, come out and attack the Humane Society of the United States on national television?
One reason is because the Humane Society Legislative Fund came out hard against Donald Trump in the 2016 election. This was the first time in their history the Humane Society of the US has ever endorsed a Presidential candidate. They released this ad in early October that stated a “Trump presidency would be a threat to animals everywhere.”
In their endorsement of Hillary Clinton, HSLF President Michael Markarian wrote:
“One ticket has a clear, compelling record of support for animal protection, while the other has assembled a team of advisors and financial supporters tied in with trophy hunting, puppy mills, factory farming, horse slaughter, and other abusive industries.”
Aside from his usual anti-humane front group funders – the International Dairy Foods Association, the Corn Refiners Association and the Institute for Humane studies, “a think tank headed by activist billionaire Charles Koch” – Berman had the perfect excuse to shake down his corporate donors to pony up big bucks to run a TV ad just before the Super Bowl.
Beside retaliating against the Humane Society for their support of Hillary, Berman needed to undermine the reputation of the Humane Society of the US before they came out swinging against an Orwellian action taken by the USDA just before Super Bowl weekend.
Brian Klippenstein, Executive Director of Protect the Harvest, and a long time enemy of the Humane Society of the US, was tapped to lead Trump’s transition team for the USDA. Elections have consequences and on Feb 3 the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) suddenly removed the public’s access to thousands of documents detailing what facilities are keeping animals and “whether those animals are being treated humanely under the Animal Welfare Act.”
If access, transparency and knowledge are important to the welfare of animals, wiping clean the USDA website “…benefits no one, except facilities who have harmed animals and don’t want anyone to know,” The Humane Society of the United States said in a statement.
Wayne Pacelle, CEO of the US Humane Society, said in a radio interview with The Attitude with Arnie Arnesen, that the USDA inspects “over 9,000” facilities a year ranging from local zoos, traveling circuses, research laboratories, and dog breeding facilities or so-called “puppy mills.”
According to Science Magazine these USDA reports have led to big animal welfare violators. “Public access to the reports has led to scores of media reports like this article in The Boston Globe in 2012 documenting problems at Harvard University’s primate research facility; the university later closed the trouble-prone New England Primate Research Center.”
While this specific ad may be in response to the attacks on Donald Trump, the feud between Berman and Company and the Humane Society goes farther back than the 2016 elections. Berman also created a few different front-groups to attack the Humane Society and animal welfare groups over the past decade.
According to the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, under the Center for Consumer Freedom, Berman created:
- Maternity Pens – Maternity Pens is project that “defends the use of gestation crates used by pork producers and criticizes the arguments of animal rights activists.”
- Animal Scam – Animal Scam is a project “that denigrates animal rights activists and criticizes their advocacy campaigns.”
- The Humane Society for Shelter Pets – The Humane Society for Shelter Pets “complements the work of the Center for Consumer Freedom’s HumaneWatch by encouraging the public to donate to local animal shelters instead of the Humane Society of the United States.”
- PETA Kills Animals – PETA Kills Animals is a project “that smears People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and promotes negative information about the group’s practices.”
Got an issue you want to kill, Berman has a think-tank for you.
How Does Joe Sabia, Peter T Paul, and Berman Connect To New Hampshire?
Now that we understand who Rick Berman is, how his PR firm is paid to create opposing views to major legislative initiatives, and the model they use to create their research, let look at how this connects to the University of New Hampshire and the Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics.
This raised a few red flags, as Sabia is one of Berman’s most quoted economists against raising the minimum wage.
As one of Berman’s researchers, Sabia collected over $200,000 dollars in grant money, to say the minimum wage would hurt low-wage workers and ultimately kill jobs.
Berman’s Employment Policies Institute pushed Sabia’s work directly to lobbyist from the National Restaurant Association, the Chamber of Commerce, Americans for Prosperity, and the National Federation of Independent Business to convince lawmakers to oppose any wage increases.
Sabia’s validity was called into question by a San Diego news agency, Voices of San Diego:
“One of [Sabia’s] seven studies for EPI concluded New York’s 2004 minimum-wage hike led to a significant decline in employment for 16-to-29-year-olds without high school diplomas and projected more than 16,000 lost jobs.
That study got particular attention in the Times’ report because University of Delaware economist Saul D. Hoffman reviewed the same data and found it lacking.”
“Mr. Hoffman concluded that the narrow cut of data Mr. Sabia picked was perhaps unintentionally skewed, and once corrected, it would have showed that the 2004 increase in New York State’s minimum wage had no negative impact on employment — the opposite of the conclusion the institute had proclaimed in its news releases.”
Sabia’s hire raises some serious questions:
* Who exactly hired Sabia?
How open and transparent was the hiring process?
Were other economists even considered for this position?
After Paul donated $25 million to UNH, the Whittemore School of Business was renamed after Paul, ie. The Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics.
Judith Blake, Peter’s partner ran for the University’s Board of Trustees the same year he made the $25 million donation and won election to the Board.
Just this year, Blake donated $8 million dollars with the vast majority to go for scholarships to Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics. (The terms of the scholarships have not been publicly disclosed as of this writing.)
* What did Paul College Dean, Deborah Merrill-Sands, know about Sabia before hiring him?
Merrill-Sands told the NH Business Review that her focus has been on “business ethics, corporate responsibility and sustainability.”
* Did Merrill-Sands know about Sabia’s questionable ethics before hiring him and does Sabia’s ethics fit into her model for an academic leader?
The NH Business Review specifically questioned Merrill-Sands about being an academic leader.
Q: How have your international experiences informed your perspective as an academic leader?
A: I’ve spent almost two decades working on issues of rural poverty around the world. When you are exposed to such profound poverty for a long time, you gain a much broader perspective on the vital role of business in society. I learned quickly that government wasn’t enough and saw the impact of the private sector in economic and social development.
As a dean in a business school, I believe it’s important to understand the positive impact of business while not getting swept away by the power of greed. We still need ethics and accountability.
* Is there some type of ethics violation by Sabia to be paid by Berman’s anti-minimum wage front group to produce research that benefits Berman’s corporate donors?
We already know that Peter T. Paul has questionable ethics, as he was the creator of “Alt-A” mortgages that many attributed to the financial collapse in 2008.
* Did his anti-minimum wage research play a roll in his hiring by the Peter T Paul College of Business and Economics?
The Connection To NH Politics
Peter T. Paul was the billionaire backer of Dan Innis the former Dean of the UNH Business School. Innis courted Paul to donate to the school, Innis left the position of Dean to run for U.S Congress in 2014. Peter T Paul created a Super PAC with at least $500,000 to fund Innis’ primary campaign. Despite the large cash support Innis lost his 2014 bid against incumbent Rep Frank Guinta.
In 2016, Peter T. Paul once again helped to fund Innis. This time the Paul Super PAC refocused on state races, just as Innis flipped from running for Congress to making a run for NH State Senate. Innis won and is now pushing Right to Work (for less) and opposing an increase in the NH Minimum Wage.
By far the most important questions are: What is next for the Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics? Will the college become a shill for Berman and Company using Sabia’s work to denounce raising the minimum wage in New Hampshire and throughout the country?
Is hiring Sabia and pushing Innis into the NH Senate all part of Peter T Paul’s plan to reshape New Hampshire politics to mirror his own right-wing ideology?
We already know that attempts have been made by billionaires like the Koch Brothers, Arthur Pope, and Betsy DeVos to highjack our political system. They use their unlimited funds to rig the system against working people and to foster their own personal greed.
It is vital that people understand who is pushing these lies that the minimum wage kills jobs and that inhumane treatment of animals should be ignored. It is all connected.
Big Business and billionaires are using people like Berman to deceive you and we must put a stop to it.
We must have answers to these questions. This is our college, funded with our tax dollars, and we demand answers.