This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on front groups and corporate spin.
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.
Like Wikipedia, the collaborative, online, free encyclopedia, this website is a collaborative project that lets anyone edit articles. We welcome participation from everyone: students, journalists, whistleblowers, and just plain curious folks. Everyone is invited to join in this project. If you need help doing so, the links and articles on this page can help you get started.
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Video ads by the Center for Union Facts
portray union organizers as thugs who invade workers' homes to intimidate them into joining.
The Center for Union Facts is a secretive front group for individuals and industries opposed to union activities. It is part of lobbyist Rick Berman's family of front groups including the Employment Policies Institute. The domain name www.unionfacts.com was registered to Berman & Co. in May 2005.
In May 2006 the Center for Union Facts, launched its first TV ad campaign. The 30-second spot, running on Fox News and local markets, has "actors posing as workers" saying "sarcastically what they 'love' about unions," like paying dues, union leaders' "fat-cat lifestyles," and discrimination against minorities. The ad campaign cost $3 million, which was raised "from companies, foundations and individuals that Mr. Berman won't identify." 
Labor and economics professor Harley Shaiken said the effort "to create an anti-union atmosphere" more generally, as opposed to business-funded ads against a particular union organizing drive or strike, "is a new wrinkle." An AFL-CIO spokesperson called the ad's accusations "unfounded and outrageous." 
The group campaigned heavily against the Employee Free Choice Act, legislation which "would give employees at a workplace the right to unionize as soon as a majority signed cards saying they wanted to do so." The Center for Union Facts has spent "$500,000 on newspaper and broadcast advertisements this week alone," reported the New York Times on June 20, 2007.  The group's print ads for the campaign compared union leaders to Ugandan dictator Idi Amin and Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, calling the bill a "scheme to eliminate workers' right to a secret ballot." 
The Center for Union Facts is behind the billboards with the web site TeachersUnionExposed.com which have been put up around Newark, New Jersey.
Latest articles from the Center for Media and Democracy's PR Watch about front groups:
- "Won't Back Down" Film Pushes ALEC Parent Trigger Proposal
- Mary Bottari Wed, 19 Sep 2012 15:00:30 +0000
- Paul Weyrich's Troika Reunited: ALEC Partners with Republican Study Committee at Heritage Foundation
- Brendan Fischer Wed, 12 Sep 2012 13:44:43 +0000
- "Citizens for Fire Safety" Smoked Out: Front Group Folds After Exposé
- Rebekah Wilce Mon, 10 Sep 2012 13:31:15 +0000
- Koch-Funded AFP Hails Walker as Conquering Hero, Rallies the Troops for November
- Harriet Rowan Wed, 08 Aug 2012 16:11:13 +0000
- The Trap Shoot Must Go On: Guess Who'll Be Shootin' with ALEC Members in Salt Lake? (The NRA and a Machine Gun Corp)
- Lisa Graves Thu, 19 Jul 2012 12:45:54 +0000
- Koch's Americans for Prosperity Campaign Draws Some Relatively Small Crowds--from Wisconsin and Elsewhere
- Will Dooling Mon, 04 Jun 2012 22:14:14 +0000
- Koch-Fueled Event Brings out Tea Partiers for Walker and Kleefisch from Wisconsin and other States
- Will Dooling Sat, 02 Jun 2012 16:34:42 +0000
- Indiana Workers Stand against the ALEC Agenda and the Anti-Labor Bill Called the "Right to Work" (for Less)
- Lisa Graves Thu, 05 Jan 2012 14:20:05 +0000
- Mitt Romney's "Super" Friends Take Aim Through the "Restore Our Future" Super PAC
- Lisa Graves Thu, 05 Jan 2012 06:01:17 +0000
- The Real "Winner" in Iowa: New "Super" Front Groups That Are Super Corrupting Our Democracy Thanks to "Citizens United"
- Lisa Graves Wed, 04 Jan 2012 14:01:28 +0000
- APCO Worldwide, a PR firm affiliated with the law firm of Arnold & Porter, has created front groups for the tobacco industry such as The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition and Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse. Other tobacco industry front groups have included Associates for Research in the Science of Enjoyment, the Beverly Hills Restaurant Association, the California Political Empowerment Committee, Contributions Watch, the European Science and Environment Forum, and the Hospitality Coalition for Indoor Air Quality.
- Former Arkansas Governor and U.S. presidential candidate Mike Huckabee raised money to support his political career through a tobacco-funded front group called Action America.
- Lexington Communications, a PR firm based in the United Kingdom, has sponsored pro-biotechnology organizations in the UK including the Agricultural Biotechnology Council and CropGen.
- Alaska's Future is a front group created to promote a natural gas pipeline on behalf of companies including ExxonMobil, BP and ConocoPhillips.
- America's PAC, a conservative political action committee, has one of the top ten election-season advertisers in American markets, featuring vitriolic attack ads that attempt to discourage African-Americans from voting at all. Using a group that is not formally affiliated with the Republican Party to engage in negative campaigning is a tactic designed to minimize public backlash against this type of negative campaigning.
- The American Center for Voting Rights actually campaigned to make it harder for Americans to vote, under the guise of preventing "voter fraud."
- Funded by the chemical and food industries, the American Council on Science and Health campaigns to defend sugar, pesticides and chemical additives in foods.
- With funding from Enron, a group called Americans for Affordable Electricity campaigned in the 1990s for deregulation of the electricity market in the U.S., undermining the reliability of the electricity supply and trigging rising electricity prices and blackouts in California and the northeastern states of the US.
- Americans for American Energy, a front group created by Pac/West Communications to campaign for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, attempts to link environmental concerns to terrorism, accusing "liberal lawyers and environmental extremists" of subverting "America's access to vital energy supplies."
- Bureaucrash, an anti-regulatory website targeting a youth audience, is actually a project of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a corporate-funded think tank.
- Some front groups like to use the word "responsible" in the name they choose for their organization, usually as a weaselly way of positioning themselves to advocate against the cause that the rest of their name seems to support. Examples include the Canadian Coalition for Responsible Environmental Solutions (which opposed environmental action to prevent global warming); the Citizens' Alliance for Responsible Energy (which advocates expanded oil drilling in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge); and the Coalition for Responsible Healthcare Reform (created in 2007 by Blue Cross of California to oppose health care reforms being pushed by Democratic lawmakers and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger).