The notion that artists are layabout leeches is nothing new. In "Adam's Curse," William Butler Yeats summed up the scorn poets felt:
Better go down upon your marrow-bonesAnd scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stonesLike an old pauper, in all kinds of weather;For to articulate sweet sounds togetherIs to work harder than all these, and yetBe thought an idler by the noisy setOf bankers, schoolmasters, and clergymenThe martyrs call the world.’
And who can forget then House Majority Leader Representative Matt Dean's May 2011 condemnation of science fiction writer Neil Gaiman as a "pencil-necked little weasel" for receiving a large stipend for an event underwritten by Legacy funds?
Today, the now-minority caucus again questioned the value for the dollar of the arts. A tweet went out--retweeted all of three times, like Peter denying knowledge of that boon companion from Nazareth--denouncing business trips for artists:
Here in the frozen, but flourishing, arts paradise that in the western prairie waters, we simply had to shake our heads at the invidious comparison. We weren't the only ones, though House DFL staffer Mike Howard tweeted out an interesting fact about that "#DFLWaste:
What about that? Here's the 2011 vote, along with the KSTP article the minority Minnesota House Republican caucus references and a list of the travel. It's remarkable that in the 2011 vote, only three House DFLers voted for this "waste" that the minority caucus is trying to brand as "DFL."
Also worth noting: the KSTP story is built entirely on assumptions made by Watchdog.org, although the station doesn't identify what this organization is.
It's a watchdog, right? With a name like that, what else might we need to know?
Recent reports suggest knowing more about Watchdog.org might help KSTP viewers better evaluate investigations from Watchdog.org
Dark Money: Watchdog, MN State News, Freedom Foundation of MN and the Franklin Center
On February 16, 2011, the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota announced that it was launching Minnesota State News:
The Freedom Foundation of Minnesota today announced the launch of Minnesota State News, an online media service that provides timely, original political and public policy news from the State Capitol and around Minnesota.
Minnesota State News (www.mnstatenews.com) features free coverage and analysis of the state budget negotiations, high-impact investigative reports, in-depth video interviews with the state's political leaders, and more. The site also includes a frequently updated "Budget Buster" section that shines an unflattering spotlight upon those policymakers who seek to increase spending and expand government.
The Freedom Foundation of Minnesota is listed as a Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity "Statehouse News Bureau". . . The Franklin Center funds reporters in over 40 states. . . Despite their non-partisan description, many of the websites funded by the Franklin Center have received criticism for their conservative bias. . . .On its website, the Franklin Center claims it "provides 10 percent of all daily reporting from state capitals nationwide.". . .
According to the Wikipedia entry for the Franklin Center:
Statehouse News Online is a network of journalists covering state-specific and local government news. Statehouse News covers state legislation, government & special interests, state budgets and political/campaign news. In 2012, Statehouse News was rolled into the Watchdog.org project.
95 percent of its 2011 funding came from DonorsTrust, a spin-off of the Philanthropy Roundtable that functions as a large "donor-advised fund," cloaking the identity of donors to right-wing causes across the country (CPI did a review of Franklin's Internal Revenue Service records). . . . Mother Jones called DonorsTrust "the dark-money ATM of the conservative movement" in a February 2013 article. . . . Franklin received DonorTrust's second-largest donation in 2011.. . .
The Franklin Center also receives funding from the Wisconsin-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, . . . a conservative grant-making organization.
The Franklin Center was launched by the Chicago-based Sam Adams Alliance (SAM), a 501(c)(3) devoted to pushing free-market ideals. SAM gets funding from the State Policy Network, which is partially funded by the Claude R. Lambe Foundation. Charles Koch, one of the billionaire brothers who co-own Koch Industries, sits on the board of this foundation. SAM also receives funding from the Rodney Fund.
In Donors use charity to push free-market policies in states, the Center for Public Integrity reports:
In 2009, a network of online media outlets began popping up in state capitals across the nation, each covering the news from a clearly conservative point of view. What wasn’t so clear was how they were funded.
“The source is 100 percent anonymous,” said Michael Moroney, a spokesman for the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, the think tank that created the outlets.
In fact, 95 percent of Franklin’s revenue in 2011 came from a charity called Donors Trust, according to Internal Revenue Service records.
Conservative foundations and individuals use Donors Trust to pass money to a vast network of think tanks and media outlets that push free-market ideology in the states — $86 million in 2011 alone. The arrangement obscures the identity of the donors wishing to keep their charitable giving private, especially “gifts funding sensitive or controversial issues,” according to the group’s website.
The $6.3 million donation to the Franklin Center was the second-largest gift made in 2011 by the group, a tax-exempt “public charity” that takes tax-deductible donations from donors “dedicated to the ideals of limited government, personal responsibility, and free enterprise,” according to its website.
Donors Trust includes 193 contributors, the majority of whom are individuals. “A lot of donors are flying totally under the radar,” says president and CEO Whitney Ball.
Does the funding source influence the reportage? Journalism.org reported that the sites varied:
Among the key findings on the Watchdog.org family:
- The sites scored a 63 on the 100-point scale PEJ devised to measure ideology, making its journalism the second-most ideologically oriented in the study.
- 41% of stories presented a primarily conservative theme, while 11% contained pro-liberal themes. (49% contained no particular theme or a mixture.)
- On nine of the sites, only Democrats or government agencies were the subject of investigative exposes.
- The majority of Watchdog stories (53%) contained only one-or mostly one-point of view. About one third (34%) contained two or more.
- The sites scored 61 on a 100-point transparency scale, ranking them among the least transparent of all sites studied.
- The sites as a whole scored 20 on a 100-point scale for productivity, which measures volume of original reporting and opinion blogging, as well as the number of editorial and reporting staff listed. As a group, they were the lowest in productivity.
Obviously, Watchdog.org's Minnesota Bureau doesn't just go after Democrats, since there's no mention in the KSTP report about which party in the legislature approved the funding.
That sort of bias--and blinders about its own caucus's vote in 2011--is left to the Republican Minority Caucus, bless their little hearts, as they hunt down pencil-necks everywhere.
Photo: A pauper breaking stones, so not like one of those artists doing things hard to measure by the wheelbarrow.
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