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The Media

The Franklin Center’s Totally Non-Partisan, Wholly Independent Citizen Blogger Event Sounded Like a Great Time

While I was unable to attend the Franklin Center/Montana Watchdog Citizen blogger event today as I was job creating in my small business, the recap provided by Dave Budge over at the Electric City Weblog made it clear that I probably made the right choice not to attend.

It’s not that I mind listening to an even arguing with conservatives. My problem is that this organization is deliberately misleading readers in its news coverage and deliberately misled in its presentation today.

While the event was billed as non-partisan, other than the truly non-partisan Money in State Politics, the roster of speakers was confined to speakers who are conservative or paranoid-conservative.

Who were some of the guests the non-partisan event invite to speak?

  • Tabitha Hale, who was billed as the “new media outreach person at the Franklin Center,” discussed new media. She’s the former New Media Director for FreedomWorks and a blogger at the rabidly conservative RedState. While there, she wrote some entirely non-partisan pieces on unions, Harry Reid, and the 2010 election, in which she offered this non-partisan commentary: “ Here’s the thing: Republicans are undoubtedly going to win next Tuesday. We will pick up house seats and some Senate seats. You control how many seats we will win.”
  • The keynote speaker was Catherine Engelbrech of True the Vote, a TEA Party-affiliated organization dedicated to fighting illusory Democratic voter fraud and UN involvement in American elections. Her organization was deeply involved in the non-partisan effort to keep Scott Walker in office.
  • Joe Balyeat, former Republican legislator and current state director with Americans for Prosperity was also on hand to present some non-partisan views. During his time in the Legislature, Mr. Balyeat was known for his insulting, abrasive, and incredibly conservative views. Exactly a month ago, Mr. Balyeat was robo-calling Montana voters to attack Jon Tester.

Hardly a roster of independent, non-partisan thinkers.

This event comes on the heels of a Media Matters for America report which exposed the agenda of the Franklin Center’s media explosion:

But in several states, Franklin Center-affiliated sites have developed a reputation for promoting a right-wing slant, occasionally leading to those outlets being denied credentials or having their work rejected by newspapers.

We’ve seen this kind of coverage in Montana the past few months. When discredited reporter Dustin Hurst left the Idaho Reporter (another Franklin affiliate), he immediately brought his slanted, inaccurate reporting here to Montana.

Media Matters also specifically looked at these “citizen events” hosted by the Franklin Center:

Complicating the ethical dilemma confronting editors who would run Franklin Center reporting are the array of conservative events the group sponsors through its “citizen journalism” arm. These include a conservative blogger conference in April that featured discredited right-wing voices Dana Loesch and James O’Keefe. It also holds regular citizen watchdog training seminars that promote conservative principles and feature O’Keefe, Franklin Center staffers, and other conservative luminaries.

The Franklin Center contends that their mission is transparency. It’s time for them to demonstrate their real commitment to it—and own up to their conservative and corporate bias. They have every right to present conservative viewpoints, but they should demonstrate the intellectual honesty and ethical consistency to simply admit their profound bias.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.


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  • It’s hard to classify it as “a great time”, Don. I would say there was a lot of great learning. But as a teacher I’m sure you have as much learning as you need, right?

    Good for you.

  • I’m curious. What is your small business that you were creating jobs in yesterday? I’m not trying to put you down, but you have mentioned it several times. Even though I disagree with most of what you have to say, I would still patronize you if possible.

    • Thanks for the offer, but unless you are involved with competitive high school debate, probably not something you’d have any interest in.

      Thanks, though. 🙂

  • Only as an occasional volunteer judge, Don…

    As far as True the Vote, though, I wouldn’t call their fraud claims illusory unless you first look at the written evidence they offer. We saw it yesterday and, while it is not proof of “rampant” or “widespread” voter fraud, it certainly demonstrates that their claims are not “illusory.”

    • I did read their web site. The evidence they present is pretty questionable there.

      A lot of claims about potential for abuse, but little proof of actual abuse. Perhaps they are hiding the good stuff for these sessions.

  • I found the same information as Don did. Sorry to say all this group’s writers wants is more people scheming and streaming their Propaganda from the right on the internet for this state.

    When I tweeted it, I caught a little of Dustins snark, but thats okay, he might still be turned too the light of being a real reporter…… one day,

  • I scanned their site, and couldn’t find the various voter registration forms she showed us…with two different names. Lots of registrations to Starbucks, vacant lots, etc.

    None of that matters, huh?

    • I don’t think so. It just isn’t happening.

      Given the apocalyptic language “voter fraud” groups use, you would think it’s a pervasive problem. It just isn’t.

      The flip side, though, is real. Remember when MT Republicans challenged thousands of legitimate voters in 2008? Actions like that are far more damaging to democracy than the largely misplaced fear of voter fraud.

    • Voter fraud does NOT exist. But I’ll tell you what DOES exist, and it stinks to high heaven! I see rightwingers of all stripes PREYING on folks who have some sort of infirmity, and cajoling these folks to vote a rightwing ticket! How disgusting! The christofascists hang around nursing homes and all KINDS of care facilities where the physically and mentally infirm live. They lure them with different kinds of approaches, mostly religeeious wacko, but sometimes even taking people to lunch, etc., and attempting to befriend them! And then, while they’ve got them captive, they unleash their wacko bullshit on them!

      There was even one notorious local Constistupidist who I will not name who had to actually be kicked OUT of a local state institution because of his actions! In this particular case it was illegal to do what he and his daughters were doing.

      So, I find the nazis and their christofascist allies to be beneath comptemt! Voter fraud is simply another tool in their box of dirty tricks!

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