Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Excellent Web site exposes front groups

with 6 comments

The site is Full Frontal Scrutiny, and you should bookmark it. Their bannerhead:

“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.

Go take a look at some of the groups they’ve identified working behind the scenes.

UPDATE: The commenter CE didn’t know to click the link “We” in the text above, and so didn’t fully understand the groups that started Here’s the text at that link:

Full Frontal Scrutiny is a joint venture between Consumer Reports WebWatch and the Center for Media and Democracy, two non-profit organizations whose mission includes consumer education using investigative reporting. This Web site seeks to expose front groups, which are organizations that state a particular agenda, while hiding or obscuring their identity, membership or sponsorship, or all three.

The joint venture grew from WebWatch’s mission to create guidelines for Web site credibility, which it has successfully done for travel, health, search sites and others. WebWatch’s credibility guidelines emphasize that the most trustworthy Web sites clearly disclose their address, identity, purpose, mission, corporate parents and sources of funding. The Center’s SourceWatch and PRWatch sites, open to contributions from the public, have indexed and reported on hundreds of organizations whose offline or online presence fails the transparency test, by omission, obfuscation, or deception.

WebWatch and the CMD created Full Frontal Scrutiny to provide consumers with a resource for investigating a particular organization they may hear about in the media, in a piece of direct mail, even on a street corner, while investigating others that may come and go with political seasons, or spring up to sway public opinion as a piece of legislation enters Congress.

WebWatch and the Center will create original content for Full Frontal Scrutiny, which will also publish selected content from WebWatch and from the Center’s SourceWatch database, as well as aggregating news about front groups from other reliable sources.

Full Frontal Scrutiny will focus on front groups in the health, personal finance, electronics and Internet, automotive, home, environment, travel and other topic areas of particular interest to Consumers Union and within its expertise. The site may also call attention to ongoing work by the Center on front groups of other sources. WebWatch will focus exclusively on Web sites, while the Center may look at advertising, campaign content and television commercials.

This site is hosted by the Center, based in Madison, Wisconsin. WebWatch, based at Consumers Union’s headquarters in Yonkers, New York, paid the center a $30,000 grant in 2007 for startup funding. Staff from the Center and WebWatch will contribute original content to the site. Additional content comes from the archives of SourceWatch, PRWatch, WebWatch and Consumer Reports magazine. You can read information about WebWatch’s and the Center’s sources of funding at our respective Web sites.

About Front Groups

Not all organizations trying to shape public opinion are front groups, of course. Some organizations may represent a particular point of view, and don’t hide who’s paying the bills. But just about all front groups try to mislead in one way or another. An example is the Consumer Alliance for Energy Security. Its home page describes the organization as “a broad-based coalition of consumers, industrial and institutional energy users committed to alleviating the current U.S. energy crisis by pushing for greater access to the abundant supply of domestic energy on the Outer Continental Shelf – OCS.” In plain English, that means offshore drilling for oil and natural gas.

One click gets you to the page listing who’s in the coalition. Most of the more than 100 members are multinational corporations and business umbrella organizations, many of which are involved in the resource extraction, manufacturing, and food production industries. There are also a few companies with questionable environmental records over the years, such as Dow Chemical and DuPont. Information about the organization’s funding does not appear on the website. Nor does the site list a physical address or phone number — only an e-mail form. The Consumer Alliance for Energy Security may be many things, but it’s not a “consumer alliance,” and can reasonably be called a front group.

For a definition of front groups and how to recognize them, see “What are some common traits of front groups?” on our Frequently Asked Questions page. For further information, see the front groups article on SourceWatch.

About Consumer Reports WebWatch

Consumer Reports WebWatch is the Internet integrity division of Consumers Union, the non-profit publisher of Consumer Reports Magazine, the Consumer Reports on Health and Money Adviser newsletters,, and a variety of sites advocating consumer rights in the marketplace.

We assist Consumer Reports’ editorial division in evaluating the credibility of Web sites, we investigate and research Web sites on behalf of consumers, and we advocate for consumer-focused Internet policy and governance. Consumer Reports WebWatch accepts no advertising or outside funding, other than from non-profit foundations.

Through research, the promotion of guidelines for best practices and other means, we seek to improve the credibility of content on the World Wide Web. Through research and analysis, we have developed guidelines for specific sectors of the Web. These sectors have included travel Web sites, search engines and health sites.

Consumer Reports WebWatch is a member of the W3C consortium for developing Internet standards; the Internet Society, a grass-roots group focused on Internet policy; and is an at-large structure (ALS) in the user community of ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigning Names and Numbers. WebWatch also serves as an unpaid special adviser to, a “Neighborhood Watch” initiative led by Harvard University’s Berkman Center and the Oxford Internet Institute devoted to helping Internet users avoid downloading malicious spyware, adware and malware programs.

For further information about WebWatch, including staff biographies, visit Consumer Reports WebWatch. Visit our blog as well, the UnSponsored Link.

About The Center for Media and Democracy

The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) is a non-profit, non-partisan, public interest organization that strengthens participatory democracy by investigating and exposing public relations spin and propaganda, and by promoting media literacy and citizen journalism. CMD serves journalists, researchers, policymakers and citizens at large in the following ways:

  • Countering propaganda by investigating and reporting on behind-the-scenes public relations campaigns by corporations, industries, governments and other powerful institutions.
  • Informing and assisting grassroots citizen activism that promotes public health, economic justice, ecological sustainability and human rights.
  • Promoting media literacy to help the public recognize the forces shaping the information they receive about issues that affect their lives.
  • Sponsoring “open content” media that enable citizens from all walks of life to “be the media” and to participate in creating media content.

Toward these ends, the Center sponsors the following projects:

  • PR Watch, which investigates and exposes how the public relations industry and other professional propagandists manipulate public information, perceptions and opinion on behalf of governments and special interests.
  • SourceWatch, an Internet-based “open content” encyclopedia of people, groups and issues shaping the public agenda.
  • Congresspedia, the “citizen’s encyclopedia” of the members of the US House and Senate.
  • Publications including articles and books by CMD staff.
  • Public education campaigns, including public speaking and activities such as CMD’s work to raise awareness about the PR coverup by government and industry of problems related to mad cow disease.

For further information about CMD, including staff biographies and a list of our financial supporters, visit

Written by Leisureguy

29 January 2008 at 9:29 am

6 Responses

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  1. Looks like is a front for a tiny Socialist activist group:



    29 January 2008 at 11:22 am

  2. As explained (clearly, I think) in the “About” page of (or Full Frontal Scrutiny), it’s a co-operative venture between two investigative groups, Consumer Reports Web Watch and Center for Media and Democracy. The latter group also has the site, or, as the title at the site says, “Center for Media and Democracy/ PR the affilitation is clear.

    I don’t know what you mean by an “activist” group, and so far as I can tell, it has no socialist leanings: it’s simply does investigative reporting that (probably) occasionally makes those being investigated uncomfortable. No problem there, surely.



    29 January 2008 at 11:40 am

  3. Actually your update is incorrect I did know to click on and did view the “About” page. The descriptions of the organizations seem a little deceptive to me. So it looks like a front for these organizations. For example PR Watch is run by 11 people 9 of which, if you read their staff biographies, are “activists” (please ask them what they mean by “activist”) and self described as such by some of them. The topics reported on by these activists are topics traditionally used by the socialist movement to encourage greater government encroachment on the freedom of individuals i.e.: “activism” (please see them for explanation), animal rights, global warming, social justice etc etc. So their claim that they “investigate(s) and expose(s) how the public relations industry and other professional propagandists manipulate public information, perceptions and opinion on behalf of governments and special interests” doesn’t really ring honest to me because in discussing these topics it reads to me like advocacy of socialist values not investigative reporting. I don’t see an expose on George Soros or accusations that he secretly funds Media Matters or other 527’s. It would be interesting for them to take that stance and see how they do with it but somehow I don’t think they would ever refer to his relationships with 527’s that way. This, by the way, also discredits their non partisan claim the make, for me at least.

    And of course in their entry makes no mention at all of Soros’ groups affiliation with Media Matters or that Soros secretly funds it’s operation – a link which has been reported and which they do not deny. In fact they merely describe the organization in glowing terms as “a new Web-based, not-for-profit progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation”. So where’s the expose there? Kind of dishonest isn’t it if they can’t get that one right? Or was there no interest in exposing the “front group” activities and relationship of Media Matters to Soros?

    I may have to edit the wiki to include the information about it being a front group for Soros and we’ll see how long that lasts before it’s censored. Should be interesting.



    29 January 2008 at 12:58 pm

  4. If Soros is funding the organization (I don’t know whether he is or not), it’s obviously not much of a secret if people outside the organization know. And funding of organizations is fairly common on both sides of the left-right divide. You’ve heard of Scaife, for example?



    29 January 2008 at 1:07 pm

  5. A deft redirect (applause for you) but back to my point. The Soros connection is one which the participants try very hard to keep a secret thus it is a perfect subject for this website to expose, no? Why then does it seem to be described so positively in this wiki when it is the ideal candidate for such exposure?

    Methinks, motives here might not be so pure as put forth by that website and readers should beware that this website is not so “excellent” at what it purports to do and perhaps has a more activist purpose.



    29 January 2008 at 1:54 pm

  6. Well, the motives of the site should become clear as we read their reports. I think we both will find things to interest us.



    29 January 2008 at 2:34 pm

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