The First Amendment under fire

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

The Franklin Center was founded on the belief that journalists come in countless shapes and sizes. Unfortunately, the Senate is assaulting this diverse network of people who make up the free press and narrowing it to more established media organizations! 

Senator Chuck Schumer recently claimed that he had the votes to pass Senate Bill 987, the “Free Flow of Information Act.” The bill would give federal judges power to determine whether a journalist qualifies for protection from government intrusion under the First Amendment.

What does this mean? The law would prevent journalists from being forced to reveal their sources or turn over materials they have used in their investigations. However, not all who practice journalism would be covered. This law allows the government to decide who is a protected “journalist” based on arbitrary measures like salary, employer, and frequency of publication – excluding bloggers and other independent journalists. Rather than providing a “shield” so that the government cannot force journalists to reveal confidential sources, it offers protection only for those who fit a professional definition of the term.

At best, the proposed law would have little impact, but we have reason to believe it could end up having a decidedly negative effect. As the Washington Examiner editorial team wrote, “the law already says releasing classified information harms national security, so Schumer’s bill creates a gaping hole that federal prosecutors will surely exploit.”

Therein lies the issue: the law would put discretionary power in the hands of judges to determine whether journalists can protect their sources, undermining First Amendment rights. When a journalist can’t guarantee to a source that he or she will remain anonymous, that source will be less likely to reveal secrets. Should we expect a potential whistleblower to take solace in the possible ruling of a federal judge? Probably not.

“Even if judges ultimately attempt to protect journalists on a case by case basis under the act,” writes Robert Romano in NetRightDaily, giving them the benefit of the doubt, “the threat of prosecution of journalists will undoubtedly have a chilling effect on speech.”

Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, echoes this concern arguing that this bill will not only fail to improve press freedom, but will in fact “weaken rights reporters already have and make it easier for the government to get sources from reporters.” As defenders of a robust free press, we don’t believe this would put America on a healthy trajectory, as a frightened press corps will soon turn into the state’s lapdog when it should be its watchdog.

With it’s narrow-minded understanding of how the media operates, Senator Schumer’s bill is simply blind to the realities of the digital age. Imagine the news cycle without the work of people like Michelle Malkin, Andrew Breitbart, or Matt Drudge. All made their mark first as non-traditional journalists – nobodies with computers breaking big stories until America had no choice but to listen. They are no different from the rest of us: citizens who took action in their communities and shared their observations. The rights of the new 21st-century journalist must be protected and preserved.

“Since when do journalists need ‘clear and convincing evidence’ they serve some vital public interest in order to exercise their First Amendment rights?” Romano asks. “Why would we let federal judges be the final arbiter of what leaks of classified information were in the public’s interest? Isn’t it for the public to decide what was in their interest?” Unfortunately, the Free Flow of Information Act fails to offer a satisfying answer.

At the Franklin Center, we believe in the both the power and the constitutional right of private citizens to keep government accountable through the free press. Elected officials, of all people, shouldn’t get to decide who does and doesn’t get to investigate and write about them. Unlike Senator Schumer, we believe that for journalists, it’s not the newspaper you report for so much as what you report that defines you. With a government prone to waste, fraud, and abuse, America needs the press to be free to speak truth to power without fear of legal repercussions. Any act of journalism deserves protection under the law. That’s why we have the First Amendment!

Investor Relations Intern – Paid Position

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

What we are:  The Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity strives to promote the education of the public about waste, corruption, incompetence, fraud and taxpayer abuse by public officials at all levels of government. With transparency, accountability and fiscal responsibility as its watchwords, the Franklin Center identifies, trains, and supports investigative journalists working to detect and expose corruption and incompetence in government at the state and local levels.  For more information on the Franklin Center please visit www.FranklinCenterHQ.org.

What you are: a highly motivated potential team member who desires to learn the nuts and bolts of building relationships with current and potential investors and implementing a financing plan for a multi-million dollar non-profit organization.

What will you be doing?

  • Tracking program success and creating materials to demonstrate return on investment for investors
  • Writing, editing and proofreading letters of inquiry for foundations funding
  • Conduct prospect research and prepare materials for investor visits
  • Assist in management of onboarding process for new investors
  • Database management and entry of contributions
  • Supporting the day to day operations of the investor relations team


What abilities do you need?

  • Strong attention to detail and organization
  • Excellent communication skills – both written and verbal
  • Inquisitive and curious nature – if you don’t know something feel free to ask
  • Swift problem solving skills
  • Sense of humor is a must – we work hard but we also laugh (a lot)
  • Motivation to seek out projects and areas to help the team
  • Research ability – must be skilled at digging up both (accurate) information on the internet and success stories within the organization
  • Subscribe to the Franklin principles: Commitment, Humility, Collaboration, Innovation, Honesty, Competitiveness and Fun

To apply, please send resume to John Courts at John.Courts@franklincenterhq.org

Communications and Outreach Intern – Paid position

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

Paid position

About the Franklin Center

Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity strives to promote the education of the public about waste, corruption, incompetence, fraud and taxpayer abuse by public officials at all levels of government. With transparency, accountability and fiscal responsibility as its watchwords, the Franklin Center identifies, trains, and supports investigative journalists working to detect and expose corruption and incompetence in government at the state and local levels. For more information on the Franklin Center please visit www.FranklinCenterHQ.org or our news site, Watchdog.org.

Position Description

The Franklin Center is seeking a highly motivated, liberty-minded intern dedicated to free market principles to join the team for the spring of 2014. Applicants should be interested in writing, media, public relations, outreach, news, communication and event planning. Need not be a student to apply, but should have an understanding and support of the Franklin Center’s mission.

Applicants should have strong writing and communication skills, should be able to manage multiple tasks at once, and take ownership when managing a project. He or she should have superior organization and focus on detail, strong written and verbal communication. They should possess a vibrant personality, willing to engage via phone or in person in external affairs. The intern should have a self-starter attitude and ability to manage projects independently with limited oversight.

Intern responsibilities and tasks include the following:

  • Assist both the Director of Communications and Director of Outreach in day-to-day functions.
  • Monitor news coverage and sort specific stories by issue area for future use.
  • Manage communication with all coalition groups, specifically responsible for the weekly newsletter.
  • Create meeting materials, presentations, and/or mockups of editorials and news stories.
  • Work with the Franklin Center’s op-ed shop to help research and/or write opinion pieces.
  • Responsible for maintaining and helping design marketing materials.
  • Help manage conference outreach calendar, shipment of materials and possible attendance.
  • Assist the Director of Outreach with event planning.
  • Help form and maintain strategic partnership with likeminded journalism organizations.

To apply, please submit your resume to Alicia Barrett at Alicia.Barrett@franklincenterhq.org.

Wisconsin Reporter Appears on Fox News with Greta Van Susteren

Friday, January 24th, 2014

Philly.com: ‘Three Stooges’ of NJ disability Pensions

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

Meet New Jersey’s ‘three stooges’ of police disability pensions:

Read the entire article here.

Human Events: Labor Unions have Some Wild Ideas About ‘Work’

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

MIAMI – Defending workers’ rights is a noble mission.  But sometimes labor unions take it too far.  Here are some of our favorite examples of labor union contracts “gone wild.”

1) Three strikes and you’re still not out.

Believe it or not, an overly generous clause slipped into the teacher Master Agreement in 1997, basically states that Bay City School Teachers (Michigan) can be caught drunk at work up to five times before they get sacked.

In Florida, a teacher who showed up to class plastered and then started “dirty dancing” with her students may end up teaching again, thanks to her union’s excellent negotiating skills.

Bay City School teachers (again in Michigan) managed to negotiate a union contract where they could be caught in possession of, or under the influence of, drugs  three times before they lost their job.

Read the entire article here.

Franklin Center By The Numbers 2013

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

Franklin center by the numbers

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Wednesday, December 18th, 2013


NE Watchdog Reporter Joe Jordan appears on KMTV

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

Nebraska Watchdog reporter Joe Jordan discusses his story “Critic’s poll: GOP’s Terry in trouble with Republicans” with KMTV.

You can read the entire story here: http://watchdog.org/116607/critics-poll-gops-terry-trouble-republicans/

Mary C. Tillotson

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

Mary C. Tillotson has contributed to School Reform News, Budget and Tax News, and Health Care News at the Heartland Institute. She spent a year running around to several homes helping with homeschooling, doing everything from chasing an energetic two-year-old to tutoring high school students in writing and algebra.

She recently co-founded The Mirror Magazine, a blog for women in the post-feminist world, and she contributes to Ignitum Today, a Catholic young adult e-magazine. Formerly, she reported and photographed for The St. Ignace News in northern Michigan, covering the local city council and writing features.

A Hillsdale College grad and Michigan native, she lives in Virginia with her husband, Luke.