A PR exec and lawyer, Berman is best known for his "win ugly or lose pretty" approach to politics. While a lot of PR execs shy away from overt campaigns or playing dirty, Berman has built his reputation on such tactics, starting with the tobacco industry in the 1990s and now including the food and beverage industry, oil and gas, chemical companies, plastic manufacturers, and anyone who hates unions. He runs a network of front groups and think tanks funded by industry groups, companies, and rightwing foundations.
In 2014, a tape of Berman at an energy industry conference was leaked to The New York Times. In his talk, he detailed his strategy, not only for that industry, but in general.
"So we start out with negative public opinion, which is most important to at least be aware that if you go out and you poll, this is what you find. So that can be depressing at one level. But let me tell you something data
people don't often think about it. The whole theory here that I can't get into; but it's the difference between people having a public opinion and people making a public judgment; when people come to a so-called public judgment. Public opinion is, "I'm a Democrat, or, I'm a Republican, and I like people who have a 'D' or 'R' after their names." That's the public opinion about the Democrats or the Republicans.
Public judgment is when the public decides that they want to vote for somebody or not vote for somebody even across party lines based on some facts. Facts are most important, and public judgment goes deeper than public opinion. When you achieve public judgment about something, especially something that you are not in favor of: you're willing to tax it, you're willing to ban it, you're willing to put warnings on something. That's when you get public judgment, and the political process won't go that far until there is public judgment about something.
In 1987, Rick Berman founded Berman and Company, a full-service research and communications firm, with seed funding from its anchor client, Philip Morris. Prior to that Berman was employed as an Executive Vice President for Pillsbury, labor attorney for Bethlehem Steel and The Dana Corporation, as well as Director of Labor Law for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In 2007, a 60 Minutes special on Berman dubbed him "Dr. Evil," a nickname that's stuck over the years.
Berman's forte is astroturfing. He runs a wide range of front groups, including the Center for Consumer Freedom, the Center for Union Facts, Employment Policies Institute Foundation, Center for Organizational Research and Education, and campaigns like Big Green Radicals (against environmental organizations) and Teachers Unions Exposed.
For documents illustrating Berman's work, visit our Document Cloud.