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Watching Freedom's Watch: A Classic Front Group

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What is a Front Group?

From a team that has spent a tremendous amount of time, especially over the last four years investigating and exposing these groups, here is a little history about where front groups came from.

The modern political front group actually got its start about 50 years ago in the tobacco industry. As the Surgeon General targeted cigarettes and scientific studies were being publicized about the dangers of cigarettes, the tobacco industry, quite simply, created their own front groups in order to counter the real groups.

They said, "Doubt is our product," and they used well-funded front groups to fool the public into believing there were "two sides" to the story that tobacco use cased cancer and other diseases.

What are the characteristics of those groups that help define a front group today?

Well, for one, the proponents are paid mercenaries, not concerned citizens.

Just as John O'Neill received $50,000 in August 2004 from the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth and Admiral Roy Hoffman's foundation received $100,000 in early 2005, the people working for Freedom's Watch are not tireless grassroots advocates, they are paid professionals.

The second characteristic of these groups is that they are launched fully-formed and well-funded, often directly from Washington, D.C. The funding comes from few sources, and the front group is designed to push yet mask the agenda of these few funders. The day that Freedom's Watch launched out of DC, it had $15 million in the bank and completed TV commercials.

Contrast this with say,, which was launched from an online petition by Wes Boyd and Joan Blades in California and grew into an organization as thousands upon thousands of concerned regular citizens joined. Or VoteVets, launched by Jon Soltz living in his office in New York.

Movements come from outside in, ground up. Front groups are launched fully formed, top down.

One of the clearest ways to see this is to look at the traffic that two sites receive.

If you head on over to and compare MoveOn with Freedom's Watch, you'll see a clear fact - Freedom's Watch doesn't get any traffic - there is no support from the ground up, there is only the front, from the top down.

Finally, while Joan and Wes have always been and always will be involved with MoveOn, just as VoteVets is always going to be Jon Soltz's group, the heads of front groups like Freedom's Watch will change.

It appears that Bradley Blakeman is now the President, former George Bush spokesperson. He wasn't the head of it when it launched. And six months from now, it will be someone else.

The donors and the missions of front groups remain, the employees change, a lot.

To find out more about Freedom's Watch, visit

This is our previous post in this series, Watching Freedom's Watch: The Donors.
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Dave has more than 20 years of technology industry experience. His earlier career included technical positions, including video game design at Atari and Imagic. He was a pioneer in design and development of productivity and educational (more...)

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