Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity
Founded in 2009, the Franklin Center aims to fill the gap created by “a steep falloff in reporting on state government” by training and supporting “journalists working to detect and expose corruption and incompetence in government at the state and local levels.” To that end, the Franklin Center operates Watchdog.org websites in over 20 states and promotes the work of “affiliates” all over the country. Although it claims to be nonpartisan, the Franklin Center is closely tied to the organized right. Franklin Center president Jason Stverak was previously the executive director of the North Dakota Republican Party; the Franklin Center has conducted a number of training sessions with Americans for Prosperity; and its “Watchdog Wire” website lists a number of conservative “partners” such as Americans for Prosperity, Heritage Foundation, State Policy Network, and True the Vote.
Franklin Center is a part of the Koch network, having received over 95% of its 2011 funding from Donors Trust, a Koch-affiliated “dark money ATM.” Additionally, the Center for Public Integrity reported that the Franklin Center “has numerous ties to… Americans for Prosperity,” the Kochs’ main political arm.
- Franklin Center senior vice president Erik Telford was previously the director of membership and online strategy at Americans for Prosperity.
- In 2013, Franklin Center and the Heritage Foundation cosponsored the “Breitbart Awards Dinner,” which honored right-wing pundit Michelle Malkin. Franklin Center was also a “major” sponsor of Erik Erickson’s “RedState Gathering” in 2012.
- Franklin Center president Jason Steverak, wrote a defense of the American Legislative Exchange Council published by Breitbart, stating that “groups such as ALEC educate elected officials on a variety of issues” and that he “worked directly with ALEC in the past.” A member of the Franklin Center’s board, North Dakota Rep. Blair Thoreson, is the public sector chair of ALEC’s Communications and Technology Task Force.