Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity

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Franklin Center for Public and Government Integrity
Formation 2009
Type Nonprofit
Purpose Investigative journalism
Coordinates 38°48′22″N 77°03′12″W / 38.8061°N 77.0533°W / 38.8061; -77.0533Coordinates: 38°48′22″N 77°03′12″W / 38.8061°N 77.0533°W / 38.8061; -77.0533
Key people
Christopher Krug, President

The Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity is an online nonprofit news organization in the United States that publishes news and commentary from a free market, limited government perspective on state and local politics.[1][2][3][4][5] The Franklin Center publishes, a network of state-based websites.

According to its website, the Franklin Center is dedicated to "transparency, accountability, and fiscal responsibility" and its mission is to "shine the bright light of transparency into government’s darkest corners, and expose the facts about government mismanagement and overreach."[6] Nicole Neily serves as the organization's president.[7]


The Franklin Center was founded in 2009 with an initial sponsorship grant from the Sam Adams Alliance.[8] The organization was originally based in Bismarck, North Dakota and is currently headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia.[9] One of its founders is Jason Stverak, a prior Executive Director of the North Dakota Republican Party.[10]

News bureaus and affiliates[edit]

In September 2009, the Franklin Center launched, a network of state-based journalists who investigate and report on state and local government. covers news that involves "public officials, public programs and the taxpayer money that supports them." As of 2017, the network was composed of affiliates in Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, Ohio, Texas, Vermont, and Wisconsin.[6] The Franklin Center is an associate member of the State Policy Network, a consortium of conservative and libertarian think tanks which focus on state-level policy.[11] The Franklin Center partnered with the State Policy Network to help establish news websites and hire reporters in each of the State Policy Network think tanks.[12] Thirty news bureaus were established in the first year and 41 in the second year,[13] almost all in State Policy Network think tanks.[14]

In early 2012, the Franklin Center created a platform for citizen journalism under a banner called Watchdog Wire.[15] 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.”[16][17]


The Franklin Center provides training for investigative reporters, state-based news organizations, public-policy institutions, and watchdog groups.[18]

On May 10, 2011, Franklin Center journalist Lynn Campbell of was named moderator for the 2012 Presidential Candidate Series.[19]

In June 2012 the Franklin Center teamed up with the Heritage Foundation to host the first annual Breitbart Awards dinner.[20] 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."[21] The 2012 award winners included Washington Examiner journalist Philip Klein, Citizen Journalist Andrew Marcus, and the Ace of Spades blog.[22] Syndicated columnist and Fox News Channel contributor Michelle Malkin took home the honors in 2013.[23]

At Conservative Political Action Conference 2013, Erik Telford of the Franklin Center served on a panel discussing "Current trends in technology."[24] During the two-day conference the Franklin Center ran a promotion using an oversized costume of Ben Franklin meeting and greeting conference participants.[25] Individuals who had their picture taken with the mascot and tweeted the photo received free drink tickets.[25]

Awards and recognition[edit]

In November 2010, Franklin Center reporters at and Illinois Statehouse News were honored by the National Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors.[26] editor and publisher Len Lazarick won the first place Cappie award for coverage in the online news category.”[27] 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.[27]

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.[28][29][30]

In August 2011, 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."[31]

Franklin affiliates CapitolBeatOK in Oklahoma,, and New Jersey Watchdog have been presented awards by the respective state chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists.[32][33][34] New Jersey Watchdog has also won two New York Press Club awards.[35]

GreenTech Automotive investigation[edit]

The Franklin Center published a series of articles that raised questions about GreenTech Automotive and its presumed chairman, Governor of Virginia 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.[36] 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.[37] In April 2013, it was revealed that McAuliffe had left the green energy car-maker in December of the previous year.[38]

Green Tech Automotive filed an $85 million libel lawsuit against Franklin Center on April 8, 2013 in a Mississippi court.[39] Franklin Center described the suit as “intimidation” and pledged to continue investigating GTA and McAuliffe.[40][41] In July 2014, a federal judge in Mississippi dismissed Green Tech's case. Green Tech's appeal is pending before a federal appeals court.[42]


As of 2012, much of the funding for the Franklin Center came from Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund, two affiliated donor-advised funds.[13][43] In 2011, the two funds granted the Franklin Center US$6.3 million.[44] The grants were 95% of the Franklin Center’s revenue that year and was the second-largest grant made by Donors Trust that year.[45] In 2012, the two funds granted the Franklin Center nearly US$9.5 million, more than 80% of the Franklin Center’s revenue that year.[13] For tax years 2011 through 2013, the Franklin Center received US$22 million from the two funds.[43]


  1. ^ McBride, Kelly; Rosensteil, Tom (2013-07-30). The New Ethics of Journalism: Principles for the 21st Century. Congressional Quarterly Press. p. 130. ISBN 1-4833-2095-2. 
  2. ^ Enda, Jodi (2014-07-15). "At the statehouse, ideological press tries to fill a void in news coverage". Pew Research Center. Retrieved 11 August 2014. 
  3. ^ Peters, Justin. "‘Serious, point-of-view journalism’?". Columbia Journalism Review. Retrieved 28 October 2012. 
  4. ^ McDuffee, Allen (May 21, 2012). "Heritage Foundation and Franklin Center team up for Breitbart awards". The Washington Post. 
  5. ^ Sirota, David (August 1, 2014). "Chris Christie Wins Lawsuit to Exempt Himself From New Jersey's Open Records Laws". International Business Times. 
  6. ^ a b "About". Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. Retrieved March 21, 2017. 
  7. ^ "Nicole Neily, incoming President". Franklin Center. Retrieved 3 March 2016. 
  8. ^ Kosterlitz, Julie (December 12, 2009). "Conservative Watchdogs Awake". National Journal. 
  9. ^ "Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity IRS Form 990". GuideStar. Internal Revenue Service. Retrieved 11 August 2014. 
  10. ^ Metzler, Rebekah (October 2, 2010). "‘Watchdog’ website puts a new spin on politics". Portland Press Herald. 
  11. ^ "Directory". State Policy Network. Retrieved October 28, 2015. 
  12. ^ Fang, Lee (2013). The Machine: A Field Guide to the Resurgent Right. New York: The New Press. p. 206. ISBN 978-1-59558-639-1. 
  13. ^ a b c Vock, Daniel C. (November 2014). "How Political Donors Are Changing Statehouse News Reporting". Governing. Retrieved October 28, 2015. 
  14. ^ Fang, Lee (April 15, 2013). "The Right Leans In". The Nation. Retrieved February 22, 2015. 
  15. ^ Citizen Training. "Watchdog Wire". Retrieved 2013-05-07. 
  16. ^ "Watchdog Wire Website". Retrieved 2013-10-21. 
  17. ^ "Watchdog Wire bets that citizen journalists can investigate, too". Ebyline. Retrieved 2013-01-11. 
  18. ^ "Franklin Center aims investigative reporters at states". Washington Examiner. 2010-11-24. Retrieved 11 August 2014. 
  19. ^ "IOWA CAPITAL DIGEST". Quad City Times. May 10, 2011. Retrieved 11 August 2014. 
  20. ^ Byers, Dyland (2012-06-06). "Heritage, Franklin to host Breitbart Awards". Politico. Retrieved 11 August 2014. 
  21. ^ Franklin Center President Jason Stverak Announces 2013 Breitbart Award
  22. ^ Lee, Tony (June 10, 2012). "Inaugural Breitbart Award Winners Honored". Breitbart. Retrieved 11 August 2014. 
  23. ^ Michelle Malkin Wins 2013 Breitbart Award for Excellence in Journalism
  24. ^ "CPAC 2013 Schedule" (PDF). CPAC 2013 Schedule. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 11 August 2014. 
  25. ^ a b "ABC News Live CPAC update". 2013-03-14. Retrieved 2013-05-07. 
  26. ^ "Congrats to our 2010 Cappie Winners". Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors. 2010-11-16. Retrieved 11 August 2014. 
  27. ^ a b "Cappie Awards". November 16, 2010. Retrieved January 12, 2012. 
  28. ^ "Baltimore magazine names best political website". Baltimore Post-Examiner. 2012-07-25. Retrieved 12 August 2014. 
  29. ^ Cassie, Ron. "2013 Best of Baltimore: News". Baltimore Magazine. Retrieved 12 August 2014. 
  30. ^ Cillizza, Chris (March 12, 2013). "The Fix’s best state based political blogs — extended edition!". Washington Post. Retrieved 12 August 2014. 
  31. ^ "Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation announces $1.6 million in awards". Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation. Retrieved 11 August 2014. 
  32. ^ "The City Sentinel wins honors from Society of Professional Journalists; Community publication wins second in Best Newspaper category". City Sentinel. May 1, 2011. Retrieved 12 August 2014. 
  33. ^ "Star-Bulletin staff earns 30 SPJ journalism awards". Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Retrieved 12 August 2014. 
  34. ^ "Winner, 2013 NJSPJ Excellence in Journalism" (PDF). NJSPJ. Retrieved 12 August 2014. 
  35. ^ Caruso, Debra (2014-05-13). "Winners Announced in 2014 New York Press Club Awards for Journalism" (PDF). New York Press Club. Retrieved 12 August 2014. 
  36. ^ "Judge dismisses GreenTech suit in win for First Amendment: Examiner Editorial". Washington Examiner. 2014-07-29. Retrieved 12 August 2014. 
  37. ^ Sherfinski, David (August 11, 2013). "McAuliffe’s overstated production levels for GreenTech mar business-savvy image". Washington Times. Retrieved 12 August 2014. 
  38. ^ "Terry McAuliffe left car firm in December". 2013-04-07. Retrieved 2013-05-07. 
  39. ^ Fredrick Kunkle (2013-04-12). "Car company founded by McAuliffe files $85 million suit over Web site articles". Retrieved 2013-05-07. 
  40. ^ Stverak, Jason (2013-04-14). "We won't be intimidated". Retrieved 2013-05-07. 
  41. ^ Jason Stverak Blaze Interview
  42. ^ Gerstein, Josh; Parti, Tarini (March 27, 2015). "Hillary's brother raised Chinese money for McAuliffe's green car venture". Politico. Retrieved 29 April 2015. 
  43. ^ a b Goldenberg, Suzanne; Bengtsson, Helena (June 9, 2015). "Secretive donors gave US climate denial groups $125m over three years". The Guardian. Retrieved 2015-06-11. 
  44. ^ Goldenberg, Suzanne (February 15, 2013). "Media campaign against windfarms funded by anonymous conservatives". The Guardian. Retrieved February 16, 2013. Conservatives used a pair of secretive trusts to fund a media campaign against windfarms and solar projects, and to block state agencies from planning for future sea-level rise 
  45. ^ Abowd, Paul. "Koch-funded charity passes money to free-market think tanks in states". NBC News. Center for Public Integrity. Retrieved March 11, 2015. 

External links[edit]