|This is a re-post from August 2010.|
Do you know what AstroTurf is?
It's fake grass. You buy it at a store. No watering, no weeding, and no feeding necessary. Just cash.
By analogy, an AstroTurf lobbying group is an organization that sells "fake grass roots."
You buy it from a public relations firm. No watering, weeding, or feeding necessary. Just cash.
Washington, D.C. public relations firms manufacture AstroTurf like Bangkok brothels replicate syphilis.
And who is the King of AstroTurf -- the number one Liar for Hire in Washington?
Good people can (and will) disagree, but on everyone's short list is Rick Berman, a former restaurateur, and now lobbyist and public relations entrepreneur who has more than 22 web sites going on right now.
One is the "Center for Consumer Freedom," which has nothing to do with consumers, and everything to do with cash from tobacco, booze, fat, meat and egg producers who pay Berman to try to "neutralize" any and all health campaigns.
Other Rick Berman AstroTurf spawn include FishScam which encourages people to not care about the mercury in the tuna they eat.
PeTAKillsAnimals.com, of course, only talks about the management failures of PeTA's single shelter in Norfolk, Virginia, and does not mention the myriad failures of other animal shelters across the country, nor does it ever mention any of the cases involving the criminal abuse of animals that occasionally (but routinely) go on at farms and ranches across this country.
HSUSWatch and Activist Cash talk about the dubious marketing mechanics of HSUS and other direct mail driven groups, all the while never mentioning how these web sites are themselves funded by cash from factory famers, puppy mill producers, fast food companies and the like.
For Rick Berman, transparency is entirely one way. Please ignore the little man standing behind the $10 million pile of corporate payola!
But don't take my word on any of this.
The Congressional watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) have a special web site which details all of Rick Berman's front groups.
Take a look at all these logos!
Even Rick Berman's own son finds his father's work shameful.
Of course, Rick Berman's propaganda campaigns will not work without copy-and-paste people on list-servs and blogs who are too lazy to look behind the facade to see who is funding what -- and why.
Which is not to say that Berman's front groups are always wrong on every point.
* HSUS really does solicit a lot of money in a disingenuous manner.
* PeTA really does kill over 95% of the dogs and cats that go into its Norfolk, Virginia shelter.
* A lot of the "science" put out by advocacy organizations is over-hyped and some is thin on substance as well.
But, to be clear, Berman is not interested in merely correcting excess, or telling a complete and well-nuanced truth.
His goal is cash.
The "liar for hire" business is about cash not conscience.
If Rick Berman can find a client who wants him to say toxic sludge is good for you, then by God, that is exactly what he'll say!