- - Monday, November 7, 2016


All eyes today are on Donald Trump versus Hillary Clinton. And to a lesser extent, whether Democrats can take back control of the U.S. Senate. But voters shouldn’t overlook today’s numerous state-level ballot measures that would further liberal agendas.

A ballot measure is a favorite means for left-wing activists to achieve their social justice warrior ends. It allows them to bypass the legislative process filled with those pesky checks and balances. In addition to being an end-run around the legislature, this year’s ballot measures are largely funded by out-of-state groups with an ideological allegiance that trumps state interests.

Typical carpetbagging issues include minimum wage increases, paid sick leave requirements, and other government dictated “free stuff.” Lately the activity is most in evidence in a series of animal liberation measures. These are being supported by millions of dollars from the radical (yes, radical) Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). This is the major vegan promotion group that masquerades as a pet-centric and shelter operation nonprofit.

In Massachusetts, HSUS has spent $2.4 million supporting a ballot initiative that would effectively ban 85 to 90 percent of conventionally raised bacon and egg products from being sold in the state.

At the same time it’s attacking Massachusetts’ breakfast, HSUS is closing the Cape Wildlife Center in the state because of budgetary constraints. It justifies the decision as “balancing economics with strategy.” So bacon bad, but dead wildlife — well everything dies eventually. This is the same HSUS “strategy” that directs millions in donations to big salaries and pensions and only 1 percent of its national budget to animal shelters.

According to Charles Lewis, a local Massachusetts animal control officer, the Wildlife Center closure amounts to a death sentence for the 2,000 animals it takes care of each year. Yes, but remember there is a bacon and eggs issue that must be managed.

HSUS‘ support for the Massachusetts ballot measure has an extra wrinkle because it represents a conflict of interest. HSUS board member John Mackey is also the CEO of Whole Foods. Mr. Mackey stands to benefit financially if the ballot measure is passed because it would effectively outlaw Whole Foods’ competition in the state by banning conventionally raised eggs and pork. (Whole Foods only serves cage-free eggs and pork.) Call it “conscious cronyism” — a new take on Mr. Mackey’s self-righteous catchphrase, “conscious capitalism.”

To counter this nonprofit misuse by HSUS, the Center for Consumer Freedom, a group that I manage, has filed a complaint against HSUS with the Internal Revenue Service and the Massachusetts attorney general’s office.

HSUS is also involved in other state ballot measures. It has spent nearly $1 million trying to pass an ivory ban on today’s ballot in Oregon. (Illegal ivory markets these days occur in Asia. Oregon, not so much.) It has been a major carpetbagger in Montana, where a ballot measure seeks to outlaw trapping on public lands. And in a rare ballot measure not spawned by radical leftists, Oklahoma’s “right to farm” constitutional amendment has faced nearly $200,000 in HSUS opposition. Why spend donor dollars here? Because the ballot measure will make it more difficult for HSUS to attack farmers.

If there’s one benefit to all this spending, it’s that it has exposed the naked political agenda of HSUS. The exposure has provided contrast between it and the many unaffiliated, but similarly named, local humane societies that do good work caring for pets. In fact, this year HSUS has found itself in a fundraising hole, down an apparent $20 million and recently laying off 55 staff members.

In other words, the executives at HSUS are so obsessed with veganism and lobbying that they’re willing to throw animals — and their own people — under the bus.

The more HSUS donors learn about its perverted priorities, the more its funding gap will grow. That’s bad news for HSUS but good news for those wanting to stop this national vegan activist group from meddling in meat-and-potato issues.

Richard Berman is the president of Berman and Company, a public affairs firm in Washington, D.C.

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