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.
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.
Contrast this with say, MoveOn.org, 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 www.alexa.com 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.
The donors and the missions of front groups remain, the employees change, a lot.
To find out more about Freedom's Watch, visit www.freedomswatch.newsladder.net.
This is our previous post in this series, Watching Freedom's Watch: The Donors.