Front Groups

“A front group is an organization that purports to represent one agenda while in reality it serves some other interest whose sponsorship is hidden or rarely mentioned — typically, a corporate or government sponsor. The tobacco industry is notorious for using front groups to create confusion about the health risks associated with smoking, but other industries use similar tactics as well. The pharmaceutical and healthcare industries use front groups disguised as “patients rights” advocates to market their products and to lobby against government policies that might affect their profits. Food companies, corporate polluters, politicians — anyone who has a message that they are trying to sell to a skeptical audience is tempted to set up a front group to deliver messages that they know the public will reject if the identity of the sponsor is known.

The shadowy way front groups operate often makes it difficult to know whether a seemingly independent organization is actually representing some other entity. That’s why we need your help to research and expose them. Using the resources that we have listed here, it is often possible to identify publicize the hidden sponsor who lurks behind a front group. We need you to help in the search.”
http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Portal:Front_groups

this is known as fake grassroots or astroturf.

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