Investigative Report: CCF's Richard Berman
by Ian T. Shearn
Editor’s Note: Millionaire PR operative and lobbyist Richard Berman and his shadowy
web of corporate-front organizations rake in large sums of money in attacking public
interest groups, including The Humane Society of the United States.
The HSUS hired independent journalist Ian T. Shearn to write an investigative report
about Berman and the workings of his groups. Shearn, as statehouse Bureau Chief of the
Newark Star-Ledger, led a team of reporters that won a 2005 Pulitzer Prize for the
newspaper in recognition of its coverage of the resignation of then-Gov. James
McGreevey. Shearn’s distinguished career spanned 29 years as reporter and editor. He
is now a freelance writer based in Hillsborough, N.J.
Shearn’s contract required him to identify himself in all encounters as preparing a report
for The HSUS. The final product, however, represents his independent reporting and
If charity does indeed begin at home, in the case of Richard Berman, it starts in a $3
million, 8,800-square-foot mansion he shares with his second wife in McLean, Va. One
of his first decisions in a day of many is whether to drive the Bentley or the Ferrari to
work. On this particular spring morning, he goes with the Bentley.
“Richard Berman is a professional antagonist, trying to discredit people who are doing
good in the world,” said Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of The Humane Society of
the United States. “He does not seek sensible discourse; he simply sees HSUS as a
pathway for enrichment. … This guy has developed a cottage industry attacking public
It is only logical that one of Berman’s most recent targets is The Humane Society of the
United States, the animal welfare charity that has grown significantly in recent years,
mostly through mergers and acquisitions, and has become increasingly aggressive on
several fronts in its opposition of the methods and practices of country’s agricultural and
food industry. One of its main targets has been the country’s powerful agribusiness
sector, and specifically what The HSUS considers inhumane factory farming conditions.
Pacelle said HSUS has no design to cripple agribusiness; it just wants to put an end to its
most egregious practices.
“The only reason there is conflict on some agriculture practices is that factory farmers
insist on treating animals like production machines—keeping some farm animals in a
near-constant state of immobilization and subjecting them to inhumane transport and
slaughter,” he said. “If the industry corrected these problems, then this tension would not
In April, Berman’s group did garner some media attention, and exacted a degree of angst
from the Humane Society, when it pointed out on its website that less than one-half of
one percent of HSUS revenue went to animal shelters, a fact Humane Watch asserted was
hypocritical and misleading to its donors. As a result, several corporate donors—
including Yellow Tail wines—pulled back their pledges, totaling about $200,000.
For HSUS’s Pacelle, that’s regrettable though understandable. “Corporate funders want
to feel good; they don’t want to court controversy,” he said, adding, “But we do still have
11 million supporters.” Read More
The HSUS has hired a reporter to attack people that disagree with them. I guess that’s what you have to do when you can’t refute the stories being told about you. They even went so far as to blame Rick Berman for Yellow Tail stopping their donations to the HSUS. That statement alone shows the lack of “investigative reporting” that was done here. This is obviously a desperate attempt to slow the bleeding that’s happening at the HSUS. More people are learning that they are a vegan animal rights group that does more harm than good for our local community pet shelters. More than likely, what they paid this reporter and the lawyers to file a lawsuit against Rick Berman will add up to way more than they give to pet shelters every year. But that’s what you have to do when you are a professional fundraising organization and the story you are selling will no longer hold water.