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Center for Consumer Freedom

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Title: Center for Consumer Freedom  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: CCF, Wayne Pacelle, Food issue, A nice cup of tea and a sit down, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
Collection: 501(C)(3) Nonprofit Organizations, Political Advocacy Groups in the United States
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Center for Consumer Freedom

Founded 1995
Founder Richard Berman
Type 501(c)(3)
Focus Represents the interests of restaurant and food companies
Companies and individuals[1]
$1.5 Million [2]
Expenses $1.3 Million [2]
Slogan "Promoting Personal Responsibility and Protecting Consumer Choice"
Website .com.consumerfreedomwww

The Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF), formerly the Guest Choice Network, is an American non-profit entity founded by Richard Berman that lobbies on behalf of the fast food, meat, alcohol and tobacco industries. It describes itself as "dedicated to protecting consumer choices and promoting common sense."[3] Experts on non-profit law have questioned the validity of CCF's non-profit status in the Chronicle of Philanthropy and other publications,[4][5] while commentators from Rachel Maddow to Michael Pollan have treated the group as an entity that specializes in astroturfing.[6]

CCF has attacked organizations including the Centers for Disease Control, Chipotle, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, The Humane Society of the United States, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.[3]

In a document released by The New York Times on October 30, 2014, from a talk Berman gave to the Western Energy Alliance, Berman described the approach of his various organizations as one of "Win Ugly or Lose Pretty." He also reassured potential donors about the concern that they might be found out as supporters: "We run all of this stuff through nonprofit organizations that are insulated from having to disclose donors. There is total anonymity."[7][8]


  • History and background 1
    • Guest Choice Network 1.1
    • Governance 1.2
    • Employees 1.3
  • Activities 2
    • Activism websites 2.1
  • Funding 3
  • Criticism 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

History and background

CCF was set up in 1995 by Richard Berman, owner of the public affairs firm Berman and Company, with $600,000 from the Philip Morris tobacco company to fight smoking curbs in restaurants. Berman told The Washington Post that CCF is now funded by a coalition of restaurant and food companies as well as some individuals;[3] according to the group's website it is supported by companies and individual consumers.[1] Sponsors as of 2005 were reported to include Brinker International, RTM Restaurant Group (the owner of Arby's), Tyson Foods, HMSHost Corp, and Wendy's.[3]

Guest Choice Network

The forerunner to the CCF was the Guest Choice Network, organized in 1995 by Berman with money from Philip Morris,[3] "to unite the restaurant and hospitality industries in a campaign to defend their consumers and marketing programs against attacks from anti-smoking, anti-drinking, anti-meat, etc. activists ..." According to Berman, the mission was to encourage operators of "restaurants, hotels, casinos, bowling alleys, taverns, stadiums, and university hospitality educators" to "support [the] mentality of 'smokers rights' by encouraging responsibility to protect 'guest choice.'"[9] In November 2001, the group launched a website,, which compiled information gathered from IRS documents and media reports, describing the funding and activities of groups it opposed, and listed key activists and celebrity links. In January 2002 the Guest Choice Network became the Center for Consumer Freedom, a change of name the group said reflected that "the anti-consumer forces [were] expanding their reach beyond restaurants and taverns [and] going into your communities and even your homes."[10] In 2013, CCF became the Center for Organizational Research and Education.[11]


In addition to Richard Berman, as of 2013, CCF directors included Joseph Kefauver, Daniel Mindus, David Browne, James Blackstock, Richard Verrechia, F. Lane Cardwell, and Nelson Marchioli.[12] The group is a tax-exempt

  • Official website
  • MSNBC Rachel Maddow interviews Richard Berman
  • 60 Minutes: Meet Rick Berman, A.K.A. "Dr. Evil"
  • USA Today article on Richard Berman
  • Preview of BusinessWeek profile on Richard Berman
  • Berman and Company website
  • investigative report on Berman and Company by HSUS

External links

  1. ^ a b c d "About Us". Center for Consumer Freedom. Retrieved May 2, 2015. 
  2. ^ a b "The Center For Organizational Research And Education".  
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Mayer, Caroline E.; Joyce, Amy (April 27, 2015). "The Escalating Obesity Wars".  
  4. ^ Preston, Caroline (March 11, 2010). "Nonprofit Group Attacks Humane Society Over Spending of Donations" (pdf). The Chronicle Of Philanthropy XXII (8) (IPA Publishing Services). Retrieved May 2, 2015 – via 
  5. ^ a b Drajem, Mark; Wingfield, Brian (November 2, 2012). "Union Busting by Profiting From Non-Profit May Breach IRS".  
  6. ^ a b Pollan, Michael (June 4, 2006). "'"Attacks on the 'Food Police.  
  7. ^ Endless War" and Other Rallying Points""". The New York Times. October 30, 2014. Retrieved May 2, 2015. 
  8. ^ Lipton, Eric (October 30, 2014). "Hard-Nosed Advice From Veteran Lobbyist: 'Win Ugly or Lose Pretty'; Richard Berman Energy Industry Talk Secretly Taped". The New York Times. Retrieved May 2, 2015. 
  9. ^ "Letter from Rick Berman to Barbara Trach" (PDF).  
  10. ^ "Guest Choice Network". Archived from the original on January 24, 2002. Retrieved May 2, 2015. 
  11. ^ Eilperin, Juliet (June 4, 2014). "The ad war over EPA’s climate rule has begun".  
  12. ^ "2010 IRS Form 990" (pdf). The Center For Consumer Freedom. November 10, 2011. Retrieved May 2, 2015. 
  13. ^ Sargent, Greg (January 3, 2005). "Berman's Battle".  
  14. ^ Rothstein, Betsy (July 20, 2011). "The Daily Caller Hires Glee Club Conductor With Rap Sheet as New Executive Editor". FishbowlDC. Retrieved May 2, 2015. 
  15. ^ Matthews, Mark (May 3, 2006). "Lobbyists Hide Behind Non-Profit Fronts".  
  16. ^ "New York Nanny State of Mind: What will they try to ban next?".  
  17. ^ Ness, Carol (May 11, 2002). "Hand that feed bites back: Food industry forks over ad campaign to win hearts, stomachs".  
  18. ^ "The Fifth Annual 'Tarnished Halo' Awards; PETA, California Attorney General, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Among 'Best of the Worst'" (Press release). U.S. Newswire. January 13, 2006. 
  19. ^ "Food for Thought". The Center for Consumer Freedom. February 10, 2000. Archived from the original on May 25, 2006. Retrieved May 2, 2015. 
  20. ^ Gardner, Marilyn (February 9, 2000). "Protecting us from ourselves".  
  21. ^ "The Guest Choice Network Presents the 3rd Annual 'Nanny' Awards" (Press release). PR Newswire. February 1, 2001. 
  22. ^ Berman, Rick (February 23, 2005). "Industry salivates over new cash cow".  
  23. ^ Olberding, Matt (February 14, 2014). "Farm and Food: Recall worse PR than anything anti-meat groups could conjure". Lincoln Star Journal. Retrieved May 2, 2015. 
  24. ^ "". Center for Consumer Freedom. Archived from the original on November 29, 2011. Retrieved May 2, 2015. 
  25. ^ Rogers, Dick (July 20, 2008). "Name of organizations can be deceiving". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved May 2, 2015. 
  26. ^ "Anti-PETA Ads Win Popular Acclaim". Center for Consumer Freedom. December 12, 2003. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved May 2, 2015. 
  27. ^ "About Us: Peta Kills Animals". Center for Consumer Freedom. Archived from the original on December 15, 2007. Retrieved May 2, 2015. 
  28. ^ Saunders, Debra J. (June 23, 2005). "Better dead than fed, PETA says". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved May 2, 2015. 
  29. ^ "Letter from Philip Morris attorney Marty Barrington citing initial funding for the CCF" (PDF). PR Watch. March 28, 1996. Archived from the original (pdf) on September 27, 2007. Retrieved May 2, 2015. 
  30. ^ "The Guest Choice Network Supporters; The Guest Choice Network Advisory Panel" (pdf). December 1, 1996. 
  31. ^ a b c Warner, Melanie (June 12, 2005). "Striking Back at the Food Police". The New York Times. Retrieved May 2, 2015. 
  32. ^ Barton, Paul (September 22, 2003). "Poultry firms side with lobbyist in PR battle with animal-welfare group".  
  33. ^ Greenhouse, Steven (January 16, 2014). "Advocates for Workers Raise the Ire of Business". The New York Times. Retrieved May 2, 2015. 
  34. ^ Beall, Pat (January 18, 2014). "Taking on the popular: 'Dr. Evil' targets Humane Society".  
  35. ^ Kopf, Aleese (January 19, 2014). "Critical flier targets Humane Society gala, supporters".  
  36. ^ a b Strom, Stephanie (June 17, 2010). "Nonprofit Advocate Carves Out a For-Profit Niche". The New York Times. Retrieved May 2, 2015. 
  37. ^ Drajem, Mark (November 7, 2013). "Latest Salvo in Feud Targets Humane Society's Accounting". Bloomberg Business. Retrieved May 2, 2015. 
  38. ^ "PETA Saves Animals".  
  39. ^  
  40. ^ "CREW Files IRS Complaint Against The Center for Consumer Freedom Alleging Violations of Tax Exempt Status".  
  41. ^ Lubove, Seth (September 23, 2005). "Food Fight". Forbes. Archived from the original on May 3, 2007. Retrieved May 2, 2015. 
  42. ^ "Center For Consumer Freedom". Charity Navigator. Retrieved May 2, 2015. 
  43. ^ Klinkenborg, Verlyn (July 24, 2005). "The Story Behind a New York Billboard and the Interests It Serves". The New York Times. Retrieved May 2, 2015. 
  44. ^ "Center for Consumer Freedom: Non-Profit or Corporate Shill?".  
  45. ^ "Washington Report: American Beverage Institute Attacks RWJF".  
  46. ^ "Physicians' Group Responds to Smear Tactics by Tobacco, Meat Industry Front Group". Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. June 23, 2006. Archived from the original on November 29, 2006. Retrieved May 2, 2015. 
  47. ^ "What's in a name?".  
  48. ^ "Center for Consumer Freedom". Americans' For Nonsmokers Rights. Retrieved May 2, 2015. 
  49. ^ Unti, Bernard (July 1, 2005). "Center for Consumer Freedom: Non-Profit or Corporate Shill?". The Humane Society of the United States. Archived from the original on October 17, 2005. Retrieved May 2, 2015. 
  50. ^ "About Trans Fat". The Center for Consumer Freedom. Archived from the original on December 24, 2006. Retrieved May 2, 2015. 
  51. ^ Lamb, Gregory M. (October 12, 2006). "Lead paint, cigarettes: Are trans fats next?". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved May 2, 2015. 
  52. ^ Rosenblum, Jonathan (December 19, 2006). "Trans Fat Spin Doctors Chart Legislative Risks". PR Watch. The Center For Media And Democracy. Retrieved May 2, 2015. 
  53. ^ Begley, Sharon (January 24, 2008). "Would You Like Mercury With Your Sushi?".  


See also

Following a CCF call for a retraction of a The New York Times story about mercury levels in sushi as “bad science”, Newsweek senior editor Sharon Begley has criticized the CCF's interpretation of EPA statistics and critiques of FDA restrictions on tuna and other fish.[53]

Some corporations, including PepsiCo and Kraft Foods, have declined to work with the CCF, saying they disagree with some of the group's arguments or with its approach to advocacy.[31]

Jack Reilly, a onetime I.R.S. lawyer, told the "The New York Times" that he thought the Berman nonprofits could be seen as having been established to provide business for Mr. Berman’s firm, and thus were really commercial in nature.[36]

[52][51][50][49][48] as "violent" and "extreme," and for its opposition to banning the use of trans fats.The Humane Society of the United States It has also been criticized for its efforts to portray groups such as [6] Some commentators have questioned the CCF's ethics and legitimacy. A

The CCF has drawn criticism for having taken its startup funding from the Philip Morris tobacco company and for lobbying on behalf of the fast food, meat, and tobacco industries while claiming to represent consumers.[3][43][44][45][46]

[5], The Washington Post According to

PETA created a website to counter the charges of Berman and CCF, calling them a "front group" which "devotes considerable manpower, time, and money in an attempt to make people who care about animals believe false and misleading information about PETA's work."[38] Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has responded "If you are in the business of putting veal or beef on the tables of America, and slaughtering more than a million animals per hour, and making an awful lot of money at it, you are going to try to neutralize PETA or other animal-rights groups"[39]

Some of the CCF's various critics, including targets, fight back. Labor groups pushing to increase the minimum wage have taken a tough line against Berman and his clients.[33] The Humane Society of the United States, has carried out its own investigations of CCF and founder Richard Berman, and filed complaints about CCF with the IRS.[34][35] Together, MADD and HSUS filed a complaint against Berman and Company, Berman's firm, with the New York Commission on Public Integrity.[36] CCF has filed its own complaint with the IRS against HSUS.[37]


Acknowledged corporate donors to the CCF include Coca-Cola, Wendy's, Tyson Foods, Monsanto, and Pilgrim's Pride.[3][31][32] As of 2005, the CCF reported more than 1,000 individual donors[1][3] as well as approximately 100 corporate supporters.[31]

Initial funding for the original Guest Choice Network organization came from Philip Morris, with the initial donation of $600,000 followed by a $300,000 donation the following year. Philip Morris attorney Marty Barrington wrote in a 1996 internal company memorandum: "As of this writing, PM USA is still the only contributor, though Berman continues to promise others any day now."[29] By December, 1996, supporters consisted of Fulbright & Jaworski.[30]


PETA is also a target of CCF advertising and publicity.[26] The Center for Consumer Freedom is publisher of the website,[27] which alleges People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals unnecessarily euthanizes animals in its care.[28]

Other CCF-run sites include,,,,, and and contain a mercury calculator that offers an alternative calculation of amount of a fish that can be eaten before getting an unsafe dose of mercury, calculated as ten times the reference dose recommended by the EPA. The CCF has also claimed (counter to research findings) that dieting and meal tracking do not lead to weight loss,.[25]

In addition to its own website,, the CCF operates several dozen websites targeting organizations and agencies working on social issues including animal welfare, fair wages, transfats, drunken driving, sugar, labor union activities, and mercury content in fish.[23] One CCF-run site,, states it "provides the public and media with in-depth profiles of anti-consumer activist groups, along with information about the sources of what is called their exorbitant funding."[24] The site features generally negative profiles of various groups it believes oppose consumer freedom, such as the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Greenpeace, The Humane Society of the United States, PETA, the Restaurant Opportunities Center and Mothers Against Drunk Driving. It hosts "biographies" offering negative portrayals of key activists and celebrity supporters of various groups. The site reports what it states are links between profiled groups and extremism, and argues, in general, that the groups profiled hold extreme views that are contrary to the public interest. It states to have examined 500,000 IRS documents in its profiling, listing—for each group—major donors, income and expenditure, key supporters and connections with other groups.

Activism websites

The CCF criticized statistics used by nutrition groups to describe a global "obesity epidemic", and in 2005, it filed a series of Freedom of Information Act requests against the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in response to a CDC study stating that 400,000 Americans die each year as a consequence of being obese.[22] After the CCF campaign CDC reduced its estimates to 112,000 annual deaths, leading the CCF to advertise widely that it had discredited the study.[3]

CCF gave out annual "Tarnished Halo" awards to so-called "animal-rights zealots, celebrity busybodies, environmental scaremongers, self-appointed "public interest" advocates, trial lawyers, and other food activists",[18] and its Guest Choice Network affiliate gaveout the "Nanny Awards" to "food cops, anti-biotech activists, vegetarian scolds and meddling bureaucrats".[19][20][21]

In 2002 CCF spokesman John Doyle described nationwide radio ads put out by the group as efforts to attract people to their website and "draw attention to our enemies: just about every consumer and environmental group, chef, legislator or doctor who raises objections to things like pesticide use, genetic engineering of crops or antibiotic use in beef and poultry."[17]


Its senior research analyst is Justin Wilson.[16]

Since 2011, the CCF's director of research is Will Coggin. Coggin replaced David Martosko, a former radio talk show producer who worked for The Daily Caller and is currently an editor for the Daily Mail.[14][15]


[13] IRS records show that in 2013 CCF paid more than $750,000 to Berman and Company.[1]

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