By Wayne Pacelle
Imagine that I, while serving as president and CEO of The HSUS, owned a for-profit public relations company and that 92 cents of every dollar donated to The HSUS went to that very company or to me. I was paid by The HSUS, and then I also got paid by this for-profit corporation—double-dipping as it were. You’d sniff out that nifty little arrangement as a colossal self-enrichment scam, and the Internal Revenue Service, Congress, reputable journalists, and every nonprofit watchdog agency would be all over it like mud on a pig at a family farm. And rightly so.
Yet that’s the very arrangement at work with the most discreditable lobbyist in Washington—Richard Berman and his so-called Center for Consumer Freedom, which took out a full-page ad in today’s USA Today spreading more falsehoods about The HSUS. It’s the latest attack in CCF’s anti-HSUS campaign, which is undoubtedly funded by an array of animal-abuse industries. These groups fund the campaign because they know we are the greatest threat to their bottom line. They’d ignore us if it were any different.
According to the 2008 public filings with the IRS, 92 percent of the revenue for Berman’s so-called Center for Consumer Freedom went straight to Berman himself or to his for-profit PR outfit called Berman and Company, Inc. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more transparent self-enrichment scheme.
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CCF has been exposed by ABC News, and CBS’s 60 Minutes as an industry front group that attacks everybody from Mothers Against Drunk Driving to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to The HSUS. His group does not feed one animal, shelter one homeless person, or serve any legitimate philanthropic purpose. Corporations who give to CCF get two things out of the deal: 1) they get a tax deduction by giving to CCF, scamming taxpayers in the process, and 2) they can avoid getting their fingerprints on a public attack, because CCF does the dirty work and hides the money.
But CCF’s little attack won’t work, largely because a disreputable operator like Berman cannot succeed in weakening a charity with as strong a base of support as The HSUS. Not only do we have a raft of accomplishments that make animal abusers quake, but we are also one of the best-run charities, according to third party sources. Legitimate charity watchdogs, such as Charity Navigator and the Better Business Bureau, consistently give The HSUS high marks. Worth magazine named The HSUS one of the 10 most fiscally responsible charities in America. And The HSUS meets all 20 of the comprehensive and demanding standards of the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance.
We also have a multitude of programs to support local animal shelters and operate our own hands-on animal care programs. But we were founded in 1954 primarily to tackle the big-picture problems facing animals, such as dogfighting, puppy mills, and inhumane slaughter. It is that work—especially our work to combat factory farming, the use of wild animals in circuses, and seal killing and other fur industry practices—that has our political opponents in a lather. In response, they’ve hired Berman to go after The HSUS and to produce a daily bilge of demonstrably false and defamatory statements.
Just like we don’t back down from any animal abuse industry, rest assured we won’t back down here. It’s an opportunity, more than ever, to define for the American public what animal protection really means: fighting to stop animal cruelty everywhere, no matter the species. Please help us spread the word, and to recruit even more new members.