The mysterious poll of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s budget proposal making the rounds today was commissioned by the Franklin Center For Government and Public Integrity, a conservative not for profit based in North Dakota and Virginia that was founded by a former Republican operative.
The Franklin Center also has ties to the some of the groups that organized a pro-Walker rally last weekend in Madison, including the Tea Party training group American Majority.
“BREAKING: Poll Shows 71% of Wisconsinites Think Walker’s Budget Changes are ‘Fair’,” said the release from the Franklin Center. Local and national news outlets cited it, including MSNBC (watch below). But no one, it seems, asked where the poll came from.
The poll was sponsored by WisconsinReporter.com, one of several websites operated by the Franklin Center that purport to engage in investigative journalism. The Franklin Center also runs the Watchdog.org websites, a network of local political news sites which Washington Monthly described as providing “the clearest illustration of the promise and peril of the new breed of conservative muckraking.”
WisconsinReporter.com is a new Franklin Center venture. Launched just last month, the site employs two full time reporters and several fellows. One of the reporters, Kevin Lee, told TPM on the phone that today’s poll was the site’s first.
“The Franklin Center and Wisconsin Reporter worked together to figure out some questions,” Lee said. “We were trying to figure out the questions that would be of most interest to Wisconsinites.”
(See here for an analysis of questions surrounding the poll itself, particularly how it actually shows more Wisconsin voters are on the side of the pro-union protesters and their Democratic allies.)
According to the Franklin Center’s website, its mission is to “to promote social welfare and civil betterment by undertaking programs that promote journalism and the education of the public about corruption, incompetence, fraud, or taxpayer abuse by elected officials at all levels of government.”
Dig a little deeper, and you find that the group’s president, Jason Stverak, bills himself as an “expert in non-profit journalism.” But Stverak’s bio doesn’t list any previous work in journalism before he founded the center in 2009. It does, however, mention his work with the conservative Sam Adams Alliance, a stint as North Dakota executive eirector for the Rudy Giuliani Presidential Committee and six years as the executive director of the North Dakota Republican Party. In fact, the Franklin Center is a spinoff of the Sam Adams Alliance which, Slate’s Dave Weigel reports, is a major funder of American Majority, the group behind last Saturday’s pro-Walker counter-rallies in Madison. Still with me?
Meghan Tisinger, director of communications for the Franklin Center, told TPM in an email that the poll was commissioned by the Franklin Center.
“Wisconsin reporter is a project of the Franklin Center and we solicit funds from in state and across the nation to support our reporters and help them produce great content,” Tisinger said in response to a question about WisconsinReporter.com’s funding and budget.
In the past, the Franklin Center has refused to divulge the source of its funding.
Watch MSNBC cite the poll:
Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website’s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl(at)talkingpointsmemo.com