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Allies and Tactics

The Center’s Anti-Union Allies

The Center for Union Facts’ legislative agenda is strikingly similar to other anti-union groups.  Berman has admitted to launching the Center to support the Secret Ballot Protection Act, sponsored by Rep. Charlie Norwood, which would outlaw the currently voluntary card check method for employers to recognize workers’ unions and has the support of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce , the National Right to Work Committee, and other anti-union organizations.  Berman also divulged that the Center was formed to “wage a campaign against the Employee Free Choice Act,” bipartisan legislation that would require employers to recognize unions formed by the card check process, which anti-union organizations also strongly oppose.30 

In December 2005, Grover Norquist’s Alliance for Worker Freedom hosted its regular meeting, the “Labor Reform Working Group.”31  The agenda focused on a range of union-related issues including card check and the Department of Labor’s new database on union information.  Berman attended the meeting, along with representatives from the DOL, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the anti-union Associated Builders and Contractors, and the offices of Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN) and Rep. Charlie Norwood (R-GA).32

It may be surprising for some to see a government agency working with Berman.  In spite of its duty to protect workers, the Bush Department of Labor (DOL) appears to be a close supporter of the Center for Union Facts and Richard Berman, raising questions about possible impropriety by agency officials.  The Washington Post leaked that Lynn Gibson, a DOL public affairs employee, sent an email to all DOL staff recommending that they visit the Center’s website.33  Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) sued the DOL to disclose any contact that may have occurred between Berman and DOL staff.34  DOL has now released some documents revealing that Gibson had frequent correspondence and a meeting with Sarah Longwell of the Center,35 as well as Berman’s ties to DOL Secretary Elaine Chao.  In 2004, Chao participated in a PR campaign for one of Berman’s projects, the First Jobs Institute.  Chao also wrote Berman a letter thanking him for sharing the Employment Roundtable’s position against raising the minimum wage.36   

Berman Plays Fast and Loose with the Facts

How can anyone become a quotable ‘expert’ on issues as diverse as obesity, alcohol-impaired driving, mercury, tobacco, and labor?  Richard Berman, an expert for hire, doesn’t have to possess academic or medical credentials, nor have his facts straight, just a willingness to speak loudly and “shoot the messenger” to attack the opposition.”37  Berman and his front groups have a well-documented track record of offering dubious statistics and disputing solid science to further their industrial clients’ agendas:

  • Despite solid research and the position of the National Cancer Institute, Berman has claimed, “[There is a] lack of evidence that second-hand smoke causes cancer.”38
  • The research director for Berman’s Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) told a reporter that government statistics confirm that “the drunk driving problem in this country has been reduced to a small hard core of repeat offenders,” yet according to a news report, the majority of arrests are first-timers.39 
  • The Center for Union ‘Facts’?  The Center for Union Facts’ website features a searchable database of the ‘facts’ it proclaims “union leaders don’t want you to know.”40
  • The Center claims to have 12.5 million of these facts, but much of the data presented on its website range from misleading to downright falseClick here to learn more about the Center’s distorted facts on unions.

Questions Raised about Berman’s Operations and Methods

Corresponding with a dubious, selective use of facts, Berman’s methods have raised questions over the years:   

  • Berman was linked to the ethics scandal that nearly toppled former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.  In 1993, on the same day Berman testified against tougher drunk driving regulations, he donated $25,000 to fund a college course taught by Gingrich at Kennesaw State College.  Berman enclosed the check with a handwritten a note: “Newt, thanks again for the help on today's committee hearing.”41   
  • Berman laid out his strategy to defeat public interest groups: “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 spokespersons.”42 

    • Berman’s Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) called the obesity epidemic a “myth.”43
    • A website, ActivistCash, sponsored by Berman’s CCF campaign describes the consumer groups it targets, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving, with hyperbolic language:  “Despite their innocent-sounding names, many of these organizations are financial Goliaths that use junk science, intimidation tactics, and even threats of violence to push their radical agenda.”44
  • Berman under scrutiny for alleged Enron-like shell game.  Berman’s suspect role running both the non-profit CCF and for-profit Berman & Company—which has received millions from CCF—prompted CREW to request the IRS revoke CCF’s tax-exempt, ‘non-profit’ status.  CREW charged that Berman privately benefited from CCF, and that the front group had no charitable purpose.45  CREW’s request is still pending and its investigation continues.