You don't have to be an investigative reporter to sense something a bit odd about a North Dakota group's interest in setting up news bureaus in Madison.
As Isthmus reported (Watchdog, 10/15/10), the Bismarck-based Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity plans to open a Capitol news bureau here, with a news staffer and investigative reporter. Madison already has a similar operation: a Capitol news bureau run by the MacIver Institute for Public Policy, a think tank that calls itself "The Free Market Voice for Wisconsin." And, it turns out, the Franklin Center plays a role in that group's news bureau too.
"We helped train them and we work directly with their investigative reporter," says Franklin Center spokeswoman Megan Tisinger of MacIver. She says the new Capitol bureau will operate similarly, but "is not involved in the MacIver Institute."
Run out of a resplendent office on the Square, MacIver touts its commitment to individual freedom, personal responsibility and limited government. Like the Franklin Center, it champions government transparency, as shown by its posting of state lawmakers' economic interest statements (circumventing a law requiring requesters of these records to identify themselves so the subjects can be notified).
MacIver has blasted "fanatical supporters" of a state bill to combat global warming. And its archive of recent articles, which anyone may use for free, reveals a strong interest in exposing Wisconsin's allegedly dismal business climate, wacko commitment to high-speed rail, and rampant electoral fraud - all Republican causes du jour.
"We try to find stories that aren't being covered or are not receiving as much coverage as we think some of these subjects deserve," says Healy.
And who is paying for these new stories and stances? MacIver, like the Franklin Center, doesn't say. As Healy puts it, "We have adopted a policy of protecting the privacy of our supporters."