Industry-funded organizations

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

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This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on front groups and corporate spin.

An industry-funded organization receives funding from a company or industry and often acts as a mouthpiece for views that serve the industry's economic interests.

Industry-funded organizations come in many shapes and sizes. These included trade associations, think tanks, non-profit advocacy groups, and media outlets. Some of these organizations serve as "third parties" for public relations campaigns. The third party technique has been defined by one PR executive as putting "your words in someone else's mouth."

These organizations purport to represent one agenda while in reality they serve some other party or interest whose sponsorship is hidden or rarely mentioned. For example, the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF), which has a lengthy entry in SourceWatch, claims its mission is to defend the rights of consumers to choose to eat, drink and smoke as they please. In reality, CCF is a front group for agribusiness and the tobacco, restaurant, and alcoholic beverage industries, which provide most of its funding.

Of course, not all organizations engaged in manipulative efforts to shape public opinion can be classified as "front groups." For example, the now defunct Tobacco Institute was highly deceptive, but it didn't hide the fact that it represented the tobacco industry. There are also degrees of concealment. The Global Climate Coalition, for example, didn't hide the fact that its funding came from oil and coal companies, but nevertheless its name alone is sufficiently misleading that it can reasonably be considered a front group.

This sort of manipulation doesn't necessarily entail outright lies of commission, but it typically entails lies of omission that disguise the identity of the message's sponsor. The use of the third party technique tends to corrupt journalism, science and the other institutions that it touches. Moreover, using lies of omission rather than commission enables the people who participate in front groups to rationalize that they aren't really doing anything wrong. The logic of the third party technique implies that when PR firms set out to manufacture news, they often want to keep their clients (and themselves) out of the story.

Please note: SourceWatch has a separate listing for think tanks.



See the category of SourceWatch articles on industry-funded organizations.

External links