According to the Center for Media and Democracy Source Watch,
“A front group is an organization that purports to represent one agenda while in reality it serves some other party or interest whose sponsorship is hidden or rarely mentioned. The front group is perhaps the most easily recognized use of the third party technique. For example, Rick Berman’s Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) claims that 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 the tobacco, restaurant and alcoholic beverage industries, which provide all or 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.”
“Edward Bernays, who is generally regarded as the “father of public relations,” liked to tell people, “What I do is propaganda, and I just hope it’s not impropaganda.” In his later years, he became a vocal critic of some of the deceptive techniques used within the PR industry. And yet it is Bernays himself who invented the quintessential tool of deceptive propaganda — the “front group.”
According to Wikipedia,
“One of Bernays’s favorite techniques for manipulating public opinion was the indirect use of “third party authorities” to plead his clients’ causes. “If you can influence the leaders, either with or without their conscious cooperation, you automatically influence the group which they sway.”