There are two organizations that never back down from a fight: The Humane Society of the United States and HumaneWatch. Of course the entire reason for the existence of that second group is to keep an eye on the first group. A few weeks ago, I editorialized about both, stating that HumaneWatch might have raised some good points when they released their candid look at the most recent HSUS returns. The flip side of that column was a question about the strength of the HSUS suit against the alleged misuse of funds by the National Pork Board.
Wayne Pacelle emailed me the next day, calling out HumaneWatch and the integrity of Rick Berman, the man who runs that Washington-based watch dog group. Fair enough, good journalism demands the free and open airing of all sides of a story and editing in a particular slant is worthy of a flag and a penalty half way back to the other guy’s goal line.
To be scrupulously fair and to make sure there was no room for misunderstanding, misquoting or misinterpretation, I emailed my questions to Mr. Pacelle. His responses were returned to me the same way. Links throughout this column will take you to related material. Good reading and, as usual, I invite your comments.
Q: Mr. Pacelle, after you read my opinion piece (Jolley: HumaneWatch comes out swinging, HSUS comes out slinging) you sent an email taking HumaneWatch to task on two fronts. First, you called the organization a project of the “discredited Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF).” Would you detail the points you see as discrediting CCF?
A: The Center for Consumer Freedom is one of a spider web of front groups created and run by a Washington public-relations and lobbying operative named Rick Berman, who got his start in this line of work by attacking anti-smoking advocates on behalf of Big Tobacco. Today, for example, Berman runs a group called the Center for Union Facts to attack labor unions. He runs a group called the American Beverage Institute to attack Mothers Against Drunk Driving and oppose anti-drunk driving campaigns.
The Center for Consumer Freedom attacks animal welfare groups, along with health and nutrition groups that fight obesity and public health threats posed by tanning beds and mercury in fish. The Washington Post, USA Today, and other editorial boards have called him out as a shill for industry groups, who conceal their contributions behind Berman’s front groups. CBS’s 60 Minutes did a profile on Berman and the piece dubbed him “Dr. Evil,” because he takes on the most unpopular causes on behalf of corporate clients whose identities are hidden from public disclosure by characterizing their payments to Berman for his services as “donations.”