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How Are The Humane Society, The USDA, Peter T Paul, and ‘Dr. Evil’ All Connected To NH Politics

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)

Rick Berman, aka Dr. Evil

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.

Dr Joseph Sabia

In September of 2016, the Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics quietly hired Joseph Sabia, an economist from California as the McKerley Chair of Health 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?

*   Did Peter T. Paul and his partner, Judith Blake, have any say in the hiring of Sabia? (They are both on the Board of Advisors to the Dean of the Peter T Paul College of Business and Economics.)

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.

Peter T Paul (UNH Photo Services)

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.

Business Economist And Industry Shill Now Chair Of Health Economics At UNH

unh-peter-paul-schoolThe University of New Hampshire’s Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics just hired one of the business industry’s biggest shills in the fight against raising the minimum wage.

Dr Joseph Sabia

Professor Joseph Sabia

Professor Joseph J. Sabia has been well quoted in newspapers for his work opposing the minimum wage. Lobbyists for the National Restaurant Association, the Chamber of Commerce, Americans for Prosperity, and the National Federation of Independent Business also use Sabia’s work to convince lawmakers to oppose any wage increases by saying it will kill jobs and hurt low-income workers.

The New Hampshire Union Leader just printed one of Sabia’s hit pieces in the editorial section of Friday’s paper. The editorial, “Another View — Joseph J. Sabia: The $15 minimum wage is an empty promise to the poor,” attempts to prove that raising the minimum wage will hurt New Hampshire families. He says that poor people are just lazy and there is not connection between the minimum wage and poverty.

A $15 minimum wage has been championed as an anti-poverty measure. But the majority of poor people do not work and will not benefit from a higher minimum wage. According to 2014 Census data, less than 40 percent of poor individuals actually work.”

This 40% lie has been busted by a variety of economic institutions. The Economic Policy Institute published a report in 2015 addressing this claim specifically and found that over 63% of those living in poverty do work.

Despite what some policymakers and pundits might have us believe, a significant share of the poor work. This means that policies that boost employment and wages are important and underappreciated tools for reducing poverty. To boost wage-growth and reduce poverty rates, a policy agenda must include provisions to raise the minimum wage, raise the overtime threshold, eliminate wage theft, and strengthen workers’ collective bargaining rights,” wrote Elise Gould of the Economic Policy Institute.


Richard Berman, Lawyer and Lobbyist

Professor Sabia and his work also have direct ties to Rick Berman’s public relations firm. Berman’s firm is widely known for their work pushing Right to Work, creating misleading -borderline untruthful- information about the minimum wage, and helps corporations like Wal-Mart block unionizing efforts.

In 1991, Berman founded the Employment Policies Institute that began lobbying against raising the minimum wage. “Berman also founded the Center for Consumer Freedom, which lobbies for meat, drink and tobacco industries, and the Center for Union Facts, which lobbies against unions,” wrote Ben Schiller at Fast Company online.

Sabia has been doing anti-minimum wage research for years at different colleges and universities across the country. Most recently he was at San Diego State University where he pumped out reports with grant money from Berman’s public relations firm.

Eric Lipton of the New York Times wrote about this in 2014:

Joseph J. Sabia, an associate professor of economics at San Diego State University, who has collected at least $180,000 in grant money from Mr. Berman’s group over the last eight years to deliver seven separate reports, each one concluding that increasing the minimum wage has caused more harm than good — or at least no significant benefit for the poor.

As noted above, in 1991, Berman created the Employment Policies Institute or EPI as they like to call themselves. If the acronym EPI rings a bell, that is what Berman wants. They did it intentionally to confuse people the Economic Policy Institute that has been publishing detailed economic reports for over 30 years and “whose staffers are very unhappy with the alphabetical confusion.”

The Employment Policies Institute is a wholly disingenuous group funded by companies that stand to lose from minimum wage increases,” wrote Ben Schiller at Fast Company online.

Why do Sabia and Berman’s Employment Policies Institute create these reports? To get them directly into the hands of the lobbyists who work for the corporations that fund Berman’s public relations firm.

What is clear is that the reports by the Employment Policies Institute are a critical element in the lobbying campaign against the increase in the minimum wage, as restaurant industry groups, in their own statements and news releases, often cite the institute’s reports, creating the Washington echo chamber effect that is so coveted by industry lobbyists,” continued Lipton of the New York Times.

You see the Employment Policies Institute is just another one of Berman’s nonprofit businesses in name only, as they do not have any employees. Berman’s public relations firm completes all of the work that is sent out by the Employment Policies Institute. Berman then bills “EPI” for his services and boom, corporate money laundering complete.

This arrangement effectively means that the nonprofit is a moneymaking venture for Mr. Berman, whose advertising firm was paid $1.1 million by the institute in 2012, according to its tax returns, or 44 percent of its total budget, with most of the rest of the money used to buy advertisements.

Berman has even created a new app for IPhone and Android to help employers fight against minimum wage increases.

If companies are worried that they might be forced to actually pay their workers enough to live, they have a willing ally in the Employment Policies Institute… Wage Engage allows business owners to track minimum wage legislation in states relevant to them, and to offer their opinion about the impact of such increases,” added Schiller(Read more about “Wage Engage”)  

Peter T Paul (UNH Photo Services)

Peter T Paul (UNH Photo Services)

Sabia was hired as Professor of Economics & Forrest D. McKerley Chair of Health Economics at the Peter T Paul College of Business and Economics. The school was recently renamed after UNH Alum and wealthy California businessman Peter T Paul after a very sizable donation to the school. In addition to having the school named after him, Paul also is a member of the school’s Board of Directors.

Many people do not know much about the man the school is named after. Paul founded Headlands Mortgage known for creating and selling “Alt-A” mortgages that many attributed to the financial collapse in 2007.

Headlands Mortgage, which he founded in 1986, called them Alt-A loans: Alternative “high-quality” loans. The California-based company examined the worth of the home and the down payment, the amount of cash in the bank, and the credit history, but was looser on income verification,” wrote Bob Sanders of the NH Business Review.

Paul sold his lucrative mortgage company to GreenPoint for “$473 million” reported Sanders.After selling GreenPoint, Paul started Paul Financial, which flourished and later failed, resulting in large losses for himself and his borrowers. And it became the target of a class-action truth-in-lending suit that was settled last November for $1.75 million.”

Then Paul decided he wanted to get more involved in New Hampshire politics. Paul created a Super PAC to support his friend and former UNH Business School Dean, Dan Innis in his run for Congress in 2014.

Mother Jones reported, “Paul created a super-PAC, New Hampshire Priorities PAC, and financed it with $562,000.

In 2014, Innis lost his primary bid for Congress to the corrupt Congressman Frank Guinta. This year, Innis chose to run for New Hampshire State Senate and guess whom he is bringing with him? 

“I am excited for the opportunity to refocus NH Priorities PAC on state races during the 2016 election cycle. In particular, the PAC will be focusing on recruiting and supporting candidates for the Executive Council, State Senate, and House of Representatives who are committed to offering fiscally responsible solutions to the issues impacting our great state,” wrote Peter T Paul on the NH Priorities PAC website.

So why do I find this newly hired economist to the University of New Hampshire so dubious? Because the minimum wage is one of the biggest issues driving this election cycle.

We have a Presidential election between Hillary Clinton, who supports a minimum wage increase and Donald Trump who says workers are already paid too much.

We have a US Senate race between Senator Kelly Ayotte who opposed minimum wage legislation in the Senate and Governor Maggie Hassan who has pushed for an increase in the minimum wage since her time in the NH State Senate.

We also have a Gubernatorial race between Executive Councilor Chris Sununu who opposes increasing the minimum wage in New Hampshire and Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern who advocates for a higher minimum wage and suggested a baseline of $12 an hour. Van Ostern also says he will sign any increase to the minimum wage that passes the Legislature.

For the first time in many, many, many years we are really close to getting the Legislature to raise the minimum wage and that is scaring some of the greedy CEO’s who fund groups like Berman’s Employment Policies Institute.

They are pulling out all the stops in an attempt to cover up the truth about the benefits of raising the minimum wage. By convincing people that raising the minimum wage is wrong they are trying to convince voters to reject candidates who support the increase.

I refuse to let Berman, a D.C. front man for the restaurant and business industry, Peter T Paul, a wealthy Wall Street gambler from California, and Sabia, an economist for hire funded by grants from a fake “institute” tell me what is best for the people of New Hampshire.

None of these men have the best interests of working Granite Staters’ in mind when they are pushing their agenda. These men are only interested in maximizing their personal profits and taking from the hard working people struggling every day to get by.

Related Reading:

Fight Over Minimum Wage Illustrates Web of Industry Ties

Rick Berman and the Libertarian Shell Game

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