publicly available tax returns, in 1998 alone Berman paid himself
$1.011 million in salary and for "consulting services"
out of the approximately $1.272 million total of tax-free donations
raised for EPI that year. Another way to look at it: Berman paid
to himself about 79% of all the charitable donations raised that
year by EPI. And that million-plus bucks was from just one of the
non-profits Berman operates.
In a letter
recently published on ParentalFreedom.com
(a site which parodies the ConsumerFreedom.com website Berman operates),
Berman tries to distinguish between using a non-profit to pay himself
personally as "salary," versus paying money for "consulting"
to his Berman & Company corporation -- a company Berman admits
he wholly owns.
letter he asserts that he actually paid at least a part of the non-profit
money he has steered toward his corporation to other people he chooses
to employ, as opposed to putting it in his own personal bank account.
Berman threatened a lawsuit for defamation over this distinction.
defense seems akin to someone reporting Harrison Ford is paid $20
million a picture, and Ford protesting, "No, that money doesn't
go to me! The check goes to my CORPORATION, and then I have to pay
my script reader, my office rent, my phone bill, my agent, my bookkeeper,
my housekeeper, my personal assistant, my cook, my pool cleaner,
my helicopter mechanic, my masseuse, my ex-wife and the guy who
washes my Rolls! To claim I'm paid $20 million a picture is defamatory
- my employees get some of that!"
are subject to "visibility" requirements. This is why
their tax returns are made publicly available under federal law.
Donors and the public have a right to know how tax-free money is
being spent. But if you donate to one of Berman's non-profits, only
God (and Berman) knows where much of that money goes and what it's
really spent on.
ActivistCash.com claims it "root[s] out the funding sources
of the most notorious anti-consumer groups." But this is Orwellian-speak
at best as Berman's non-profits seek to quash actual pro-consumer
groups, such as the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which
educates the public about food safety and nutrition issues. Berman's
definition of "pro-consumer" appears to be encouraging
people to smoke cigarettes, drink booze, eat lots of junk food -
and ignore the health consequences of consumption of these items.
Berman has used ActivistCash.com to compile a collection of largely
already-public non-profit information mixed with insults, distortions
-- and outright falsehoods -- perhaps in an effort to spice it up
and make his corporate funders believe he's actually engaged in
a meaningful enterprise.
Imagine if the
Executive Director of the Sierra Club raised in one year a total
of $100 million for the respected non-profit organization -- and
then paid 79% or $79 million of it to himself directly as salary
and to a corporation he wholly owned, as "consulting fees."
Berman would probably be first at the door of the Internal Revenue
Service trying to get the Sierra Club's non-profit status yanked.
In fact, Berman
recently testified before Congress advocating removing non-profit
status of certain organizations (which just happen to find fault
with some of his funder's products).
live in a glass house? Is he running a shell game or self-dealing?
Is moving the majority of donations from a non-profit you run to
a for-profit you own what the IRS intended for non-profit status?
It may all be perfectly legal, but there's an Enron-esque feeling
to it -- and Berman is currently acting like he REALLY doesn't want
this information out there.
To read more
on the controversy over this public figure, as well as Berman's
threatening letter to VegSource Interactive and our response, go