By Ian T. Shearn
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.
Capable of zero to 60 in 4.4 seconds, the commute to his Washington D.C. office is no doubt enjoyable, even if the car’s 500-plus horsepower is bridled in congestion. He glides into his parking garage in the K Street corridor, gently backs the Bentley into a reserved spot and exits the car, clutching a bundle of newspapers under his arm.
He walks with a quick, determined gait to the elevator that takes him to his office, Berman and Co., a public relations/lobbying firm that consumes the entire eighth floor. According to one visitor, the bustling office has all the appearances of a political boiler-room operation, a roomful of 25 to 30 young adults fervently attending to their computers and phones. The walls are covered with ornate, mill-worked wood, and there is a constant stream of visitors.
But this is no ordinary PR operation. This is where white-knuckle lobbying and media buys merge with a handful of public charities Berman has created to spin and cajole public perception on a variety of issues. But for the most part, he attacks and intimidates those with contrary views, and under the banner of the public good serves the agendas of corporate America.