Just Like Stalin and Hitler American Conservatives Are Creating Their Own Reality With Their Own "News" - The Franklin Center
As newsrooms across the country shave off staff due in part to slipping ad revenue and corporate media conglomeration, The Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, is rushing to fill the gap. The group has 43 state news websites, with writers in over 40 states. Its reporters have been given state house press credentials and its news articles are starting to appear in mainstream print newspapers in each state. Who funds Franklin and what is its agenda?
The websites started sprouting up in 2009. Some of these new sites go by the moniker "Reporter" as with the Franklin Center's Wisconsin Reporter that was launched in January as a website and wire-like service. Others have taken the shared name of "Watchdog.org," or "Statehouse News." The websites all offer their content free to local press -- many of the news bureaus send out their articles to state editors every day. The sites also offer free national stories that media can receive daily by subscribing.
The websites are coordinated and funded by a new non-profit group that calls itself the "Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity." The Franklin Center told the Center for Media and Democracy that it does not disclose its funders, but some of its funding can been uncovered from foundation reports. 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. The North Dakota and DC-based center works with reporters embedded in conservative think tanks and others who have their own news bureaus.
According to Media Transparency, a media watchdog group that was acquired by Media Matters Action Network in 2008, the Bradley Foundation's clear political agenda and network has allowed it to have extensive influence on public policy. The media group notes that while the Foundation's "targets range from affirmative action to social security, it has seen its greatest successes in the area of welfare 'reform' and attempts to privatize public education through the promotion of school vouchers." The Bradley Foundation gave the Franklin Center $190,500 last year.
The Franklin Center was launched with the help of Sam Adams Alliance, which calls itself "SAM." The CEO of SAM, Eric O'Keefe, has been featured at events funded by David Koch's right-wing group called "Americans for Prosperity" (AFP). As the Center for Media and Democracy/PRWatch.org has previously noted, O'Keefe frequently and positively profiles the Tea Party and attacks health care reform and other progressive ideas. He also helped launch the "American Majority" group which trains conservatives to run for office. He sits on the Board of Directors of the Club for Growth Wisconsin, which ran divisive ads in support of Scott Walker's radical overhaul of collective bargaining rights for Wisconsin workers. He previously worked for David Koch's AFP predecessor group named "Citizens for a Sound Economy," among other roles.
O'Keefe's latest enterprise, SAM, gets part of its funding from the State Policy Network (SPN), which is partially funded by The Claude R. Lambe Foundation. Charles Koch, one of the billionaire brothers who co-own Koch Industries, and his wife and children, along with long-time Koch employee Richard Fink, comprise the board of this foundation. SAM is named after Founding Father Sam Adams, one of the leaders in the Boston Tea Party tax protests.
In its first year, the Franklin Center had a budget of $2.9 million, much of it from O'Keefe's SAM.
"Franklin Center" Staffed by Right-Wing Activists
Many Franklin staffers have ties to conservative activist groups and the GOP. The Franklin Center’s president, Jason Stverak, is the former Regional Field Director for SAM, and former Executive Director of the North Dakota Republican Party.
In late July, Erik Telford, the Director of Membership Online Strategy for Koch's AFP, announced that he would take on the position of Vice President for Strategic Initiatives Outreach for the Franklin Center. He had worked at AFP for four and a half years. In his farewell letter, he minced no words in explaining the activist role he will play in his new position, "As I move on to a new challenge, I look forward to staying involved with AFP, but now in an even more important capacity: that of a member and grassroots activist."
The Franklin Center's Director of Donor Relations, Matt Hauck, is a former Associate at the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. The center's Chief of Staff, Gwen Beattie, is the former Director of Development and Operations at America's Future Foundation, an organization committed to "identify and develop the next generation of conservative and libertarian leaders." The Franklin Center's 2009 IRS 990 form lists Rudie Martinson as director and secretary. He formerly worked as the assistant state director for North Dakota's chapter of Koch's Americans for Prosperity.
The Franklin Center was one of the sponsors of the Western Republican presidential candidate debate in Las Vegas this month, along with Americans for Prosperity and other right-wing groups.
Interestingly, unlike traditional journalistic outlets, the screening process for writing for websites like the Wisconsin Reporter asks applicants ideological questions. As the Poynter Institute, a Florida-based school and resource for journalists, has reported, Wisconsin Reporter applicants must answer questions like: “How do free markets help the poor?” and “Do higher taxes lead to balanced budgets?” Such queries likely have optimal answers to a group like the Wisconsin Reporter, just as some of its stories have been criticized for being results-oriented in ways that are consistent with its funders' world view.
Who wrote that news article you read today. Was it fact based or based on the preconceived views of a right-wing conservative "reporter" who shaped the narrative to fit the extreme views of the conservative Right.