Before it's suggested that this idea would be better placed on the spending challenge website, I believe it's essential that it's debated openly on this site – as it relates specifically to democracy and freedom.
To quote the website: Rules in society create good law and order. But too many nannying, unnecessary rules restrict freedom and make criminals out of ordinary people.
I'd therefore suggest that this idea sits best on this forum, as funding groups with public money, who then lobby politicians is restricting freedoms and making criminals of ordinary people.
Both areas that this site is specifically set up to combat.
Additionally, providing funding to these kind of groups is undemocratic – they aren't elected, and serve their own mandate. (ASH receives funding from the Department of Health).
To quote from an article written by them: It is essential that campaigners create the impression of inevitable success. Campaigning of this kind is literally a confidence trick: the appearance of confidence both creates confidence and demoralises the opposition. The week before the free vote we made sure the government got the message that we "knew" we were going to win and it would be better for them to be on the winning side.
The full article can be read here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2006/jul/19/health.healthandwellbeing
Not content with admitted confidence tricks, they also try to create the impression that any suggestion of compromise with the current smoking ban is being orchestrated by the tobacco industry – thus trying to undermine the legitimate debate and voice of smokers everywhere. See http://www.cieh.org/ehn/ehn3.aspx?id=31820 and another idea on this site http://yourfreedom.hmg.gov.uk/repealing-unnecessary-laws/time-to-review-the-libel-laws
I therefore submit that this idea fits perfectly with 'freedom' in a democratic country, as any unelected group having political sway should be closely examined.
Why is this idea important?
To ensure that lobby groups are impartial, and any pressure bought to bear on goverment isn't funded by public monies – ensuring decisions reached are more transparent, and lobby groups don't hold undue sway.
Most importantly, when ideas are discarded out of hand, we need to be 100% certain that it isn't at least in part down to an unelected but part publically funded group.
This idea would go some way to ensuring decisions taken are by our elected representatives, and stop the funding of organisations that seek to hold influence over our decisions and choices.