Franklin Centre for Government and Public Integrity

Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity

 Background

The Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity is a 501(c)(3) conservative media organization located in Bismarck, North Dakota that publishes political news and commentary. Established in 2009, The Franklin Center “identifies, trains, and supports journalists working to detect and expose corruption and incompetence in government at the state and local levels,” according to their website. The group claims “to hold government officials accountable” and reports to provide 10 percent of all daily reporting from state capitals nationwide. [1]

In 2012, The Franklin Center launched an “activist training program” titled Citizen Watchdog with the goal of raising “an army of citizen journalists, trained and equipped to serve as watchdogs in their local communities.” While the Center projects itself as being non-partisan, a number of groups have criticized the Franklin Center for a conservative bias and The Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism ranked the Watchdog.org group as “highly ideological.” [2], [3], [4]

The Franklin Center was originally launched and funded by Sam Adams Alliance (SAA), a conservative think-tank which encourages “grass-roots activism.” The group has also been criticized for funding partisan polls, and has ties to the Tea Party training group American MajorityThe Center maintains a large and growing number of news bureaus across the United States with 43 state news networks and writers in over 40 states. [5], [6]

Stance on Climate Change

While the Franklin Center does not appear to have an official stance on climate change, many of their affiliated organizations and news sources are skeptical of climate change and oppose climate change policy. This from the affiliated Watchdog.org:

“There's seemingly nothing anyone can do to appease global warming activists bent on putting the nation’s energy suppliers out of business.” [7]

 Funding

In addition to seed money from the Sam Adams Alliance, The Franklin Center has received significant funding from grants channeled through DonorsTrust, with much of this finding going directly to the center's campaigns against alternative energy and the recognition of climate change. According to the Center for Public Integrity, 95 percent of the Franklin Center's revenue in 2011 came from DonorsTrust. [8]

Funds distributed from DonorsTrust to the Franklin Centre included:

  • $6,300,000 — 2011

According to research by the Center for Media and Democracy's PR Watch,  “Franklin acts as a hub that distributes funding that it receives from right-wing institutions such as the Wisconsin-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation and the Chicago-based Sam Adams Alliance. ” That included $190,500 from The Bradley Foundation in 2010 (See PDF - Archived)

Key People

According to the Franklin Center Website, As of February, 2012: 

Board of Directors

Advisory Committee

 Staff

Leadership Team

  • Jason Stverak — President. Past Field Director, Sam Adams Alliance
  • Gwen Beattie — Executive Vice President. Former Director, America's Future Foundation
  • John Connors — Director of Special Projects.
  • Steven Greenhut — Vice President of Journalism.
  • Erik Telford — Vice President of Strategic Initiatives & Outreach.
 
Development and Outreach
 
  • Alicia Barrett — Manager of Investor Relations
  • Shana Davidson — Direct Marketing Manager
  • Matt Hauck — Director of Development. Former Associate, Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation
  • Christina Pajak — Manager of Investor Relations.
  • Megan Ritter — Grants Manager and Development Writer.
  • John Courts — Development Coordinator.
  • Kathy McDonald — Senior Director of External Affairs.
 
Special Projects and Marketing
 
  • Earl Glynn — Special Projects Coordinator/Research.
  • Jennifer Ridgley — Director of Digital Marketing.
  • Kristen Hawley — New Media and Marketing Coordinator.
  • Scott Kocen — Technology Advisor.
 
Communications and Citizen Engagement
 
  • Mary Ellen Beatty — Director of Citizen Outreach.
  • Chris McCoy — Training Coordinator.
  • Jackie Moreau — Content and Outreach Coordinator.
  • Tabitha Hale — Director of Online Outreach.
  • Michael Moroney — Director of Communications.
  • Kevin Palmer — Staff Writer — WatchdogWire.
 
Operations
 
  • Nicole Stverak — Administrative Assistant and Special Events Coordinator.
  • Becky Wessels — Operations Coordinator.
  • Lynette Wilhelm — Operations Assistant.
 
Journalism Support
 
  • Kelly Carson — Senior Content Editor.
  • Will Swaim — Managing Editor, Watchdog.org.
  • John Trump — Content Editor.
  • Ben Yount — Multimedia Editor/Coach.

 Reporters

Watchdog.org Journalists (listed as of February, 2013): [9]

  • Todd Shepherd, Colorado Watchdog – Bureau Chief Tori Richards, Colorado Watchdog - Managing Editor
  • Raaki Garcia, Colorado Watchdog – Reporter
  • Yaël Ossowski, Florida Watchdog – Bureau Chief
  • Marianela Toledo, Florida Watchdog – Reporter
  • Sheena Dooley, Iowa Watchdog - Reporter
  • Earl Glynn, Kansas Watchdog – Director
  • Travis Perry, Kansas Watchdog – Reporter
  • Len Lazarick, Maryland Reporter – Editor
  • Cynthia Prairie, Maryland Reporter – Contributing Editor
  • Glynis Kazanjian, Maryland Reporter – Reporter
  • Barbara Pash, Maryland Reporter – Reporter
  • Johnny Kampis, Missouri Watchdog – Bureau Chief
  • Dustin Hurst, Montana – Bureau Chief
  • Joe Jordan, Nebraska Watchdog – Managing Editor
  • Deena Winter, Nebraska Watchdog – Reporter
  • Jon Cassidy, Ohio Watchdog – Bureau Chief and Reporter
  • Patrick McGuigan, Capitol Beat OK – Managing Editor and Capitol News Reporter
  • Shelby Sebens, Northwest Watchdog – Reporter
  • Eric Boehm, Pennsylvania Independent – Managing Editor
  • Melissa Daniels, Pennsylvania Independent – Reporter
  • Kenric Ward, Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau – Bureau Chief and Reporter
  • Carten Cordell, Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau – News Reporter
  • Kathryn Watson, Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau – Investigative Reporter
  • Matt Kittle, Wisconsin Reporter – Bureau Chief and Reporter
  • Kirsten Adshead, Wisconsin Reporter – Projects/Investigations Editor
  • Ryan Ekvall, Wisconsin Reporter - Reporter

 Actions

2012

The Guardian reports that the Franklin Center, along with its affiliated websites and news groups, have been involved in a campaign against windfarms and solar projects in the U.S. along with other organizations that have received funding from the secretive DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund. [10]

September 12, 2012

Co-sponsored a “Citizen Watchdog Training” event with Americans For Prosperity featuring right-wing activist James O'Keefe who spoke at the event on how “Together, we can begin the hard, but important job of taking back America.”

The event description hints at government conspiracy: “You've heard the egregious examples of waste, fraud, and abuse on a daily basis. We can no longer afford to sit by and wait for the government or mainstream media to fully inform the public about what's going on behind closed doors.” [11]

2011
 

According to records on file at SourceWatch, The Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity was a “Vice-Chairman” level sponsor of the 2011 American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) annual conference.  ALEC maintains ties with some of the largest industry organizations and provides connections to state legislators. The group is primarily responsible for drafting bills and resolutions created by the corporations who finance ALEC. Notably, one of the Franklin Center's Directors, Blair Thoreson, was the State Chairman for the North Dakota chapter of ALEC at the time. 

February 24, 2011

The Franklin Center commissioned a poll of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's budget proposal through WisconsinReporter.com, one of the Center's affiliate websites. The Franklin Center release said that “ Poll Shows 71% of Wisconsinites Think Walker's Budget Changes are 'Fair'.” This high percentage created some skepticism about the poll, while the data was cited by major news sources including MSNBC without further investigation. [12][5], [13]

December, 2011

Watchdog affiliate New Jersey Watchdog posted an article that pushes for the state to drop a regional emissions reduction program. [14]

Related Organizations

According to archives at Sourcewatch, Franklin Center lists the following affiliated Statehouse News Bureaus: [15]

SourceWatch also archived a list of the Franklin Center's affiliated “Investigative Reporters” or organizations: [16]

 Resources

  1. “About,” Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. Accessed February 17, 2013.

  2. “'Watchdog' website puts a new spin on politics,” Portland Press Herald, October 2, 2010.

  3. Allison Kilkenny. “The Koch Spider Web,” truth-out.org, August 4, 2011.

  4. A Closer Look at Non-Profit News Sites,” Journalism.org, accessed February 16, 2013.

  5. The Conservative Group Behind The Poll Of Walker’s Budget Plan,” TPM, February 24, 2011.

  6. About,” Sam Adams Alliance. Accessed February, 2012.

  7. Dustin Hurst. “As reds and blues unite behind Keystone, greens prepare for battle,” Watchdog.org, January 31, 2013.

  8. Donors use charity to push free-market policies in states,” The Center for Public Integrity, February 14, 2013.

  9. Watchdog.org Journalists,” Franklin Centor for Government & Public Integrity.

  10. Media campaign against windfarms funded by anonymous conservatives,” The Guardian, February 15, 2013.

  11. Meet James O'Keefe at AFP Citizen Journalist Training Sept. 12 and 13,” AFP Nebraska, August 20, 2012.

  12. Poll Shows 71% of Wisconsinites Think Walker’s Budget Changes are 'Fair',” Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity, February 21, 2011.

  13. YouTube. MSNBC Pushes Right-Wing Wisconsin Poll. YouTube. Accessed February 16, 2013.

  14. IT’S CURTAINS FOR RGGI AS NJ’S CAP-AND-TRADE OPERA ENDS,” New Jersey Watchdog, December 9, 2011.

  15. Statehouse News Bureaus,” SourceWatch, accessed February 16, 2013.

  16. Investigative Journalists” (JPG image) Sourcewatch. Accessed February 17, 2013.

  17. Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity,” Wikipedia.

  18. Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity,” SourceWatch.