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Three questions for the Franklin Center

Wednesday, Jan 9, 2019

* Remember the post earlier this week about Speaker Madigan and his spokesman once again needling an Illinois News Network reporter for working for the Illinois Policy Institute? Well, INN is out with a statement

Chris Krug, publisher of Illinois News Network and president of Franklin Center, called Madigan’s and Brown’s conduct abusive and unacceptable.

“Speaker Madigan and spokesman Steve Brown repeatedly have harassed, belittled and attempted to provoke and intimidate INN reporter Greg Bishop now for nearly two years,” Krug said. “The pattern of unprovoked abuse and playground bullying is unprofessional. It’s unbecoming of anyone in a position of authority, let alone one of the highest offices in Illinois.

“The tolerance for abuse of media in the statehouse is unacceptable, just as it is for any other worker in the capitol. This incident – and the pattern of relentless abuse – should be immediately referred to the inspector general’s office and investigated.”

* More from the INN’s story

In about a dozen such exchanges, Madigan’s longtime spokesman Steve Brown has pointed to Illinois News Network reporter Greg Bishop. The nonprofit Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity acquired Illinois News Network in October 2017. Before that, the network had been an independent project of the Illinois Policy Institute, a free market think tank that has been critical of Madigan’s policies and leadership.

* So, I reached out to Mr. Krug with three questions. Here are my questions and his responses…

1) The Policy Institute’s 2017 tax return (attached) shows that the [Illinois Policy] Institute was a “direct controlling entity” of the Franklin Center. Is that no longer the case?

I previously had not reviewed IPI’s 990. I believe the question you are asking is about ownership. When Franklin was taken on, it was in poor financial health, and I believe what you see there is IPI’s commitment to helping the organization financially sustain the end of that 990 reporting period. I should also be represented within the Franklin 990 for 2017.

2) The 2017 return also shows the Institute gave almost a quarter of a million dollars to the Franklin Center in 2017. Have those contributions stopped since the handover?

We don’t, as a practice, disclose donors, as their privacy is relevant.

A fair amount of what I am sharing here has been previously shared, but when it hasn’t fit with the narrative of a reporter, it’s been excluded.

Franklin received sustaining grants and borrowed money from IPI (I believe most of which we have paid back) to make it through 2017’s 990 reporting period. It would be great if every business could begin at “0″ on the number line, but we both know that isn’t the case. We’ve had a lot of rebuilding to do with Franklin, but it’s been good work – both here in Illinois and across the U.S.

Franklin, though a viable brand with equity, was quite nearly a complete scrape-off. It came with a fair amount of debt to service, which was inherited.

Currently, Franklin has its own development team and is steadfastly focused to independently raise money and to utilize our for-profit entities as means to provide revenue for the purpose of accomplishing our nonprofit mission. We’re performing nicely in that regard. We continue to solicit tax-deductible contributions here in Illinois and quite literally across the count – with an aim to be self-sustaining and financially viable long into the future.

John Tillman became the chairman of Franklin. I was appointed president. I am grateful for the financial support as we’ve worked to reconstitute Franklin, because it was critical at the start. IPI, foundations and concerned citizens across a full spectrum of giving have seen the value of our work and mission, which is truly heartwarming. I spent a fair amount of 2018 meeting with prospective donors across the country who believe in our mission to support legacy media with taxpayer-focused reporting. But as far ongoing support from IPI – if it were necessary– that would be a decision IPI would make.

3) You were listed on the 2017 return as an Institute employee. Is that no longer the case?

I am no longer an employee of IPI. I oversaw INN and IRN for IPI from May 2016 to October 2017.

So, if Tillman is chairman of the parent company and runs the Illinois Policy Institute, the entities are pretty darned close.

I still say that Madigan ought to knock off the bashing of a reporter just trying to do his job, but what do you think?

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Sonny - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 9:41 am:

    They manage their operation like a game of three-card monte.

  2. - Anon E Moose - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 9:41 am:

    I don’t recall INN or IPI calling out Trump for how he treats reporters on a daily basis. Aren’t these the same people who constantly claim that we have become to sensitive? #Snowflake

  3. - Steve - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 9:43 am:

    I generally agree with Rich. Madigan can raise questions . The reporter has a right to raise questions. In the coming year more than a few reporters will probably ask Mike Madigan did he talk to Alderman Burke on the phone? Or does Madigan’s close aides talk to Madigan on the phone? Just questions.

  4. - Anon E Moose - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 9:47 am:

    It’s also unbecoming of anyone who pretends to be a news network but is clearly a front for a Koch-backed think tank seeking to further benefit the wealthy.

  5. - Grandson of Man - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 9:49 am:

    The IPI has the addresses of state workers without their consent. The IPI and its affiliates can go cry a river about the privacy of where their employees live and who are their donors.

  6. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 9:49 am:

    I don’t like to play the “whatabout” game but these complaints seem laughable considering how the President deals with reporters.

  7. - Steve - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 9:51 am:


    Can you believe the Washington Post is actually owned by Jeff Bezos , the wealthiest man in America? Shocking…

  8. - Perrid - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 9:51 am:

    Eh. Maybe he should tone it down a bit, but when the person (”journalist”) asking the question has an agenda, has a personal ax to grind with you, I think a somewhat harsher tone is acceptable.

    You can argue that’s a slippery slope, and you could probably convince me, but it’s hard to feel bad for INN.

  9. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 9:51 am:

    “The pattern of unprovoked abuse and playground bullying is unprofessional. It’s unbecoming of anyone in a position of authority, let alone one of the highest offices in Illinois.”

    I guess Bishop doesn’t see the White House beat in his future, if he’s getting so rattled here.

    Two things can be true at the same time:

    –Pretending that Tillman and the IPI types don’t run the INN show is just another grift. All their transfers don’t razzle-dazzle.

    –Madigan should lay off with the needling if the dude feels intimidated.

  10. - Anotheretiree - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 9:53 am:

    Bishop is also on a local radio station as a “reporter”. He is basically a conservative propagandist/operative. Keep harassing…

  11. - Reality Check - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 9:54 am:

    Bishop isn’t a reporter, he’s a propagandist. Given the evidence you’ve presented, it’s the legit statehouse reporters who should have an issue with the presence of Bishop and anyone else in IPI’s pocket.

  12. - Lester Holt’s Mustache - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 9:54 am:

    ==but what do you think?==

    Yes, Madigan and Brown should stop being sore winners and should stop needling Bishop.

    Yes, Bishop and INN should try to be a little less antagonistic.

    Yes, Krug should stop trying to pretend like INN’s not a part of the organization that has bashed Madigan daily for several years.

    No, INN shouldn’t act like they’re unaware that the President has given cover to pretty much any politician who wants to antagonize media outlets (“enemy of the people”, remember?)

    No, Madigan should not act like trump when dealing with adversarial media outlets

  13. - Norseman - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 9:55 am:

    INN was acquired to facilitate IPI’s propaganda mission. Their effort to disguise IPI’s involvement doesn’t change that fact. Everyone should be treated with respect, but it’s ok for Madigan to call out the nature of this organization.

  14. - The Captain - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 9:57 am:

    Looks a lot less like “independent” and a lot more like “dependent”.

  15. - Jocko - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 10:01 am:

    Chris Krug might want to check his umbrage but, then again, IPI isn’t known for it’s self-awareness.

  16. - CookR - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 10:03 am:

    Speaking of whataboutism. . .

    “On July 13, 2017, it was reported that a consortium consisting of private investors and the Chicago Federation of Labor led by businessman and former Chicago alderman Edwin Eisendrath [former Chicago alderman and D candidate for governor] and through his company ST Acquisition Holdings, had acquired the company . . .”

  17. - CookR - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 10:05 am:

    Above is of course, referring to the Chicago Sun-Times.

  18. - Groundhog Day - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 10:07 am:

    Propaganda masquerading as news is a pernicious type of fake news, IMHO. Call them out.

  19. - El Conquistador - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 10:09 am:

    The IPI and they’re subsidiary INN both espouse the government bankruptcy and the state absolving itself of financial responsibilities to keep taxes low. Few agree with them. They lost. Go away.

  20. - Medvale School for the Gifted - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 10:10 am:

    It is important for everyone to realize that the reporter works for an organization that has a clear right-wing agenda. If the reporter is not a witting shill, he is an unwitting one.

    So it is in vogue for Madigan to point this out. This is the world we now live in.

  21. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 10:11 am:

    Yeah and Madigan needs to give an exclusive five-hour interview to Alex Jones too.

    Bishop is a political operative and a lobbyist. Noone has asked for him to be removed. This whining suits his agenda and thats why he is whining now.

    If it didnt suit his agenda, he would care less what Madigan had to say to him. Spare me the crocodile tears.

  22. - HCMcB - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 10:13 am:

    Bishop has a good point, since Brown/Madigan never jabbed reporters from the Tribune, Sun Times, SJ-R, SI, Daily Herald, Channel 32, CapitolFax…

  23. - wondering - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 10:23 am:

    Bishop is not a reporter, INN is not a news network, IPI is not an institute. The labels are ingenuous. He nor they should be taken seriously.

  24. - wondering - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 10:32 am:

    “ingenuine” not “ingenuous”…ingenuous applies to those regarding Bishop as a reporter

  25. - Anoneemus - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 10:53 am:

    The INN (IPI) is about as representative of actual news as the Real Housewives of (whatever city)are representative if actual housewives.
    My question: Is Mr. Bishop really intimidated? Or are the actions directed towards him a result of his antagonistic style of “reporting”?
    If he’s really intimidated I suppose they should back off… I suppose…

  26. - Anotherretire - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 11:09 am:

    About 4? years ago Bishop had a morning show on a local station. It was all things Libertarian(&conservative). He “interviewed” the INN spokesman many times. You could feel the conservative love in the air. I kept waiting for someone to call in and ask them to get a room. Felt like he was on a job interview. Right after, he was hired by INN. I could see how the lines were blurring.

  27. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 11:11 am:

    ===about as representative of actual news as===

    I find much of their reporting to be pretty good and use them regularly here. Some of it ain’t great, and I often point it out. But they cover some stuff that others don’t, won’t or can’t.

    In a perfect world, there would be no market for this sort of service, but we do not live in a perfect world.

    Also, people can have opinions like Bishop does and still write decent stories.

  28. - Honeybear - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 11:12 am:

    Keep it up Mr. Speaker,
    Respect is earned.
    One can absolutely respect an opponent or adversary.
    IPI, Franklin, INN
    Deserve and should be afforded
    No Respect
    The damage and enabling they contributed too
    must be taken into account
    I think Madigan and Brown
    were remarkable restrained.

  29. - jim - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 11:15 am:

    For starters, Bishop should just ignore Madigan’s jibes. It’s minor stuff that says little about him and much about Madigan and Brown. Reporters should be tough, including those at the White House.
    Second, Madigan and Brown should keep it up. It’s very revealing about their character or — rather their lack of it.

  30. - Precinct Captain - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 11:15 am:

    Keep bashing the “reporter,” who is really a political activist.

  31. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 11:45 am:

    Instead of being rebuked in the last election, the IPI is doubling-down on their crazy ideas.

  32. - SSL - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 11:46 am:

    I’m not fond of reporters with agendas. They may get some truth mixed in with their propaganda, but they discredit every hard working true journalist in the process. If you want to play reporter to spread your opinion you better be ready for some blow back.

  33. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 12:40 pm:

    Reputations are earned over time. It’s abundantly clear what IPI / IRN / INN/ Franklin Center are up to. Maybe some day, with enough time and money, they’ll find their way to a structure that looks the way they want it to look, but those of us who’ve been watching won’t be fooled.

    Most news shops separate reporting from editorial. The IPI outfit blurs that line. Bishop sounds like a reporter some of the time and a columnist other times. That’s what seems dishonest. Decide of you’re a just-the-facts person or a here’s-what-to-think-about-it person. Because doing both under one cranium hurts their cred.

  34. - I Miss Bentohs - Wednesday, Jan 9, 19 @ 3:37 pm:

    I am fine with how Madigan treats anyone that has/had any affinity to IPI (or Rauner).

  35. - Robert M Roman - Thursday, Jan 10, 19 @ 5:25 am:

    Regarding Madigan & Trump: There’s a big difference between being personally antagonistic toward a reporter and trying to raise a mob against journalists in general.

    In politics, it’s usually not a good practice to burn bridges without a tactical or strategic reason, but there are exceptions. In this case, Madigan might be doing Brown a favor. Ditch the news conferences and become a library / web rat. IIRC, I.F. Stone didn’t participate in news conferences but did really good work as a reporter, albeit from the other end of the political spectrum.

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