Behind the Front Groups

A website launched by source watch, to keep track of all those fake front groups.


“The American public deserves to know when someone is trying to persuade them.”—U.S. FCC commissioner Jonathan Adelstein, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2008

We strongly agree. That’s why we created this site: to focus public attention on the people and organizations who function in our society as hidden persuaders. You’ll find them at work posting to blogs, speaking before city councils, quoted in newspapers and published on the editorial page, even sponsoring presidential election debates. All this while pretending to represent the grassroots when in fact they are working against citizens’ best interests. We call these organizations front groups. One of the best ways to put their agendas in proper perspective is to expose their work. That’s what this website is for. We hope you’ll use it, tell your friends about it, even contribute to it.

For example:

A Raspberry to the World Wide Web Health Awards

Source: The UnSponsored Link Thu, 11/08/2007 – 11:10am
Several years ago, there were a number of health Web site seal-of-approval efforts underway — Hi-Ethics, a group of 18 health sites, which was supposed to create a seal with Truste, the privacy organization; the Internet Healthcare Coalition, whose domain address is now for sale; and of course, the HON Code, still around, for better or worse. These days a number of health sites display logos from the “World Wide Web Health Awards,” as if they constitute a quality seal — in fact, on the WWW Health Awards home page, they market themselves as “providing a ‘seal of quality’ for electronic health information.’ ” We wanted to know more about these awards, since they give out dozens, twice a year. According to their Web site, they’re administered by the Health Information Resource Center, which doesn’t turn up much on a Google search.

Looking deeper among the various sites attached to the World Wide Web Health Awards pages we find, most of which is “under construction” or broken links. There are logos appearing on the right hand side of that page for the “Consumer Health Publishers Association” and the “Online Health Association,” both of which also appear to be largely under construction. Ultimately, the path leads to the American Custom Publishing Corporation of Libertyville, Illinois. We called the number on their home page and, indeed, the WWW Health Awards are run from there. What does American Custom Publishing do for a living? Well, they print brochures for the pharmaceutical industry and others. Their client list includes Liberty Medical, Pfizer, CVS, General Electric, Humana, “and hundreds more!” according to the site. The WWW Health Awards site is not exactly transparent about all this, but it wasn’t all that hard to trace, and the nice person who answered the phone at American Custom Publishing was helpful.

Or this:

In Acme Township, Michigan, the Meijer retail giant “secretly funded a plan to orchestrate last February’s recall of Acme Township’s elected officials, a potential violation of state campaign finance laws,” reports Brian McGillivary. “Meijer paid a public relations firm at least $30,000 in a failed effort to remove Acme’s board after years of zoning disputes over Meijer’s plans to build a store along M-72 in Grand Traverse County. Meijer’s public relations firm crafted recall language, devised election strategy, wrote campaign literature, and used local residents as figureheads in the recall.”

The PR firm, Seyferth, Spaulding, Tennyson Inc. of Grand Rapids, directed the campaign using front groups including Acme Taxpayers for Responsible Government and the Acme Recall Committee. “It gives me a chill, how much money they can spend to ruin other people,” said Acme Clerk Dorothy Dunville, one of the public officials targeted by the company’s recall campaign. T. Michael Jackson, a retired public relations professional, has filed a complaint with the Public Relations Society of America, charging that Seyferth, Spaulding, Tennyson violated the Society’s code of ethics.

Behind the Front Groups

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