Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity
Jason Stverak, PresidentWilliam Swaim, Managing Editor
The Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity is a conservative online news organization in the United States that publishes news and commentary from a free market, limited government perspective on state and local governance and politics.
According to the organization’s mission statement, the Franklin Center was founded "to address falling standards in the media as well as a steep falloff in reporting on state government and provides professional training; research, editorial, multimedia and technical support; and assistance with marketing and promoting the work of a nationwide network of nonprofit reporters."
The Franklin Center was founded in 2009 with an initial sponsorship grant from the Sam Adams Alliance. The organization was originally based in Bismarck, North Dakota and is currently headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia.
According to Internal Revenue Service records, 95% of Franklin’s revenue in 2011 came from a charity called DonorsTrust. In that year DonorsTrust distributed US$86 million which according to the group’s website are private gifts and used for “funding sensitive or controversial issues”, an arrangement said to obscure the identity of the donors wishing to keep their charitable giving private. The $6.3 million donation to the Franklin Center was the second-largest gift made in 2011 by the group. DonorsTrust's top contributors were Charles and David Koch.
News bureaus and affiliates
In September 2009, the Franklin Center launched Watchdog.org, a network of state-based journalists who investigate and report on state and local government. Watchdog.org covers news that involves "public officials, public programs and the taxpayer money that supports them." The network includes affiliates in Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming.
The Franklin Center advocates for “transparency in government.” The organization states its belief this can be accomplished through use of new technology, often referred to as “new media.” Franklin Center believes it is important for journalists to become fluent in new media, so the organization offers training to individuals and organizations interested in learning new media techniques.
Reporter training and education
The Franklin Center provides training for investigative reporters, state-based news organizations, public-policy institutions, and watchdog groups.
2012 presidential candidate series
On May 10, 2011, Franklin Center journalist Lynn Campbell of IowaPolitics.com was named moderator for the 2012 Presidential Candidate Series.
In early 2012, the Franklin Center created a platform for citizen journalism under a banner called Watchdog Wire. The Watchdog Wire website states that the it “exists to train citizens just like you to be citizen journalists and provide a place to feature your work. By covering stories in your local community that are otherwise ignored by the establishment media, you can make a difference! We partner with you to provide the training, the platform and the coaching you need to be government watchdogs in your own cities and states.”
In June 2013, Watchdog Wire published a one-year anniversary article citing the success citizen journalists have had under their guise. The organization cited and referenced articles that uncovered behavior that resulted in the firing of five campaign workers and numerous government employees, including a Florida school teacher that forced her students to sign a pledge to "Vote for Obama."
Awards and recognition
In November 2010, Franklin Center reporters at Marylandreporter.com and Illinois Statehouse News were honored by the National Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors. MarylandReporter.com editor and publisher Len Lazarick won the first place Cappie award for coverage in the online news category.” The judges also gave Lazarick a third place award in the category "Online: In-depth." Journalist Kevin Lee of Illinois Statehouse News won the Online In-depth Reporting Award for his investigation into the General Assembly Scholarship Program in Illinois.
The Franklin Center's Maryland affiliate, Maryland Reporter, has won awards from the Washington chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and from CapitolBeat, the national Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors. In 2012, Maryland Reporter was named Maryland's best political website by Baltimore Magazine. Maryland Reporter was also named one of the best state-based political blogs in the nation by the Washington Post.
In August 2011, MarylandReporter.com was awarded a $50,000 grant by the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation to provide "in-depth coverage of Maryland state government and politics and to expand capacity by giving those who plan on entering journalism as a career real-world experience in investigative reporting supervised by veteran journalists."
The Society of Professional Journalists has presented awards to reporters for CapitolBeatOK, HawaiiReporter.com, and New Jersey Watchdog. New Jersey Watchdog has also won two New York Press Club awards.
In June 2012 the Franklin Center teamed up with the Heritage Foundation to host the first annual Breitbart Awards dinner. The awards honored the life and work of the late Andrew Breitbart who "pioneered a new media revolution that transformed journalism and the political landscape." The 2012 award winners included Washington Examiner journalist Philip Klein, Citizen Journalist Andrew Marcus, and the Ace of Spades blog. Syndicated columnist and Fox News Channel contributor Michelle Malkin took home the honors in 2013.
At Conservative Political Action Conference 2013, Erik Telford of the Franklin Center served on a panel discussing "Current trends in technology." During the two-day conference the Franklin Center ran a promotion using an over-sized costume of Ben Franklin meeting and greeting conference participants. Individuals who had their picture taken with the mascot and tweeted the photo received free drink tickets.
GreenTech Automotive controversy
The Franklin Center published a series of articles that raised questions about GreenTech Automotive and its presumed Chairman, Terry McAuliffe. The investigation exposed the company’s reliance on a controversial fundraising program, EB-5, that has been criticized for its lax oversight and subject to abuse. The investigation also revealed that McAuliffe’s public projections, starting back in 2010, of how many cars would be built and jobs created had not come to fruition. In April 2013, it was revealed that McAuliffe had left the green energy car-maker in December of the previous year.
Green Tech Automotive filed a defamation lawsuit against Franklin Center on April 8, 2013 in a Mississippi court. Franklin Center described the suit as “intimidation” and pledged to continue investigating GTA and McAuliffe.
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- Michelle Malkin Wins 2013 Breitbart Award for Excellence in Journalism
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- Jason Stverak Blaze Interview