Richard Berman

Rick Berman, lobbyist

You’ve probably never heard of Berman, but those who have call him “Dr. Evil,” or the Astroturf King, for his many fake grassroots front groups set up on behalf of Big Food, tobacco, and alcohol. They’re set up as nonprofits, allowing his corporate clients to write off their “donations” — and their payments to Berman. Take our favorite of his creations, the Center for Consumer Freedom, which hauled in more than $20 million through 2008, more than $9 million of which went to Berman, according to an analysis of his IRS tax returns. The Center has spawned the enlightening websites SweetScam.com (sugar is sugar, ignore those high-fructose corn syrup haters), FishScam.com (mercury isn’t harmful at all), Trans-Fats.com (they unclog arteries! really!), and PETAKillsAnimals.com (the animal-rights group euthanizes kittens). We’re making the Center sound loony, sure, but its “scientists” often manage to land quotes and op-eds in newspapers.