Center for Consumer Freedom — key facts

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Summary

* Founded in 1995 as the Guest Choice Network

* Phillip Morris provided $600,000 in seed money for the organization

* Restaurant, tobacco company funds were used to fight restaurant smoking bans

* Over 40% of expenses funneled to Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) founder Rick Berman’s lobbying shop

* Payments to Berman lobbying firm led Charity Navigator to post donor advisory against CCF

* TIME: Attacks on Humane Society “a low blow”

Center for Consumer Freedom Originally Funded by Tobacco and Restaurant Industries to Fight Bans on Smoking in Restaurants

According to the Washington Post, the Center for Consumer Freedom – then named the Guest Choice Network – was originally funded with “tobacco-company and restaurant money to fight smoking curbs in restaurants.”

The Post reported that “Philip Morris USA Inc. pledged $600,000 — most of the seed money — for Berman’s group in 1995. The company said it needed a consultant who was both a ‘hospitality industry insider as well as a legislatively astute individual,’ according to documents collected as part of the multi-state lawsuit against tobacco companies.” [Washington Post, 4/27/05]

TIME reported in 2013 that the group was funded by money from Philip Morris, and was created to promote “smokers’ rights” in the restaurant and hospitality industries. [TIME, 8/12/13]

Since Tobacco-Funded Roots, CCF Has Expanded to Other Dubious Areas of Interest

Following its name change to the Center for Consumer Freedom in 2001, the Washington Post reported that “it shifted its focus to food and beverage issues, raised by concerns about obesity, mad cow disease and genetically modified products.” [Washington Post, 4/27/05]

TIME reported in 2013 that CCF had expanded to promote meat consumption, and countering scientific evidence on the dangers of mercury and high fructose corn syrup. [TIME, 8/12/13]

Over 40% of CCF’s Expenses Went to Berman and Company from 2002-2012

The table below details both CCF’s total expenses and compensation paid by CCF to Berman and Company from the 2002 tax year through the 2012 tax year.

During that period, over 40% of all CCF expenses went to Berman and Company, and in five of those years (2002, 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2011) more than half of CCF’s expenses went to Berman and Company.

TaxYear TotalExpenses Compensation to Berman and Company % of Expenses toBerman and Company
2012 $1,024,582 $246,874 24.10%
2011 $2,121,780 $1,294,488 61.01%
2010 $2,640,780 $1,682,126 63.70%
2009 $8,831,659 $1,461,597 16.55%
2008 $1,594,299 $1,043,604 65.46%
2007 $1,951,753 $1,562,280 80.04%
2006 $3,291,050 $1,190,512 36.17%
2005 $3,818,769 $1,623,186 42.51%
2004 $3,246,452 $1,435,056 44.20%
2003 $2,752,519 $1,252,344 45.50%
2002 $1,970,803 $1,044,553 53.00%
TOTAL $33,244,446 $13,836,620 41.62%

[CCF IRS Form 990 filings]

CCF’s Excessive Payments to Berman Led Charity Navigator to Issue a Donor Advisory

Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator, currently has a Donor Advisory regarding CCF.

In the advisory, Charity Navigator stated that their analysis of CCF’s 2011 IRS Form 990 revealed that the majority of CCF’s expenses were paid to Berman and Company, and that “we find the practice of a charity contracting for management services with a business owned by that charity’s CEO atypical as compared to how other charities operate.” [Charity Navigator donor advisory]

A Long History of Making False Attacks against Respected Organizations

The Center for Consumer Freedom has a long history of making false and outlandish attacks against respected organizations, including the Humane Society, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and even Trout Unlimited.

Berman has claimed that such groups have “a violent side to them.” [Washington Post, 4/27/05]

TIME: Attacks on Humane Society a “Low Blow”

In August 2013, TIME reported on CCF’s funding of ads attacking the Humane Society.

The ads claimed that only 1% of Humane Society revenue went to local shelters, an attack TIME called a “low blow.” [TIME, 8/12/13]