While people were focused on the fact that CBS allowed a pro-life advocacy ad by Focus on the Family to play during the Super Bowl, another one by a right-wing group slipped in unnoticed: a “Defeat the Debt” ad showing schoolchildren pledging allegiance “to America’s debt, and to the Chinese government that lends us money.” Watch it:
This ad has run on other national networks and is part of a campaign by the Employment Policies Institute (EPI) that has featured full-page ads in national newspapers and a billboard in Times Square. EPI is a project of right-wing, pro-business lobbyist Rick Berman, also known as “Dr. Evil.” Berman is “one of Washington’s most notorious PR operatives,” who uses his firm, Berman and Company, to fund non-profit front groups for his clients.
Over the years, Berman has gone after Mothers Against Drunk Driving, PETA, and right-wing bogeyman ACORN, and tried to convince Americans that healthier foods, raising the minimum wage, stopping smoking, getting rid of mercury in fish, and unions are bad for them. Berman refuses to reveal his clients, although in 2007, CBS’s 60 Minutes revealed that they included Coca-Cola, Tyson Chicken, Outback Steakhouse, and Wendy’s. According to the watchdog group CREW, Berman “runs at least 22 industry-funded projects, such as the Center for Union Facts, and holds 23 “positions” within these various entities.” Watch Rachel Maddow’s November 2009 report on Berman:
The New York Times reported that EPI, “a conservative research group with close ties to business,” launched its campaign last fall and planned to spend approximately $5 million.
Until recently, CBS and other networks said they had a policy against airing advocacy ads during the Super Bowl. In the past, ads by groups such as MoveOn.org, the United Church of Christ, and the pro-marriage equality group GetToKnowUsFirst.org were rejected (even though networks have selectively decided to air other advocacy ads). This year, CBS controversially decided to accept a pro-life ad from Focus on the Family, saying that it had changed its policy and was willing to accept appropriate advocacy ads.