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 wasnâ€™t so clear was how they were funded.
â€śThe source is 100 percent anonymous,â€ť said Michael Moroney, a spokesman for the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, the think tank that created the outlets.
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 â€” $86 million in 2011 alone. The arrangement obscures the identity of the donors wishing to keep their charitable giving private, especially â€śgifts funding sensitive or controversial issues,â€ť according to the groupâ€™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 â€śpublic charityâ€ť that takes tax-deductible donations from donors â€śdedicated to the ideals of limited government, personal responsibility, and free enterprise,â€ť according to its website.
Donors Trust includes 193 contributors, the majority of whom are individuals. â€śA lot of donors are flying totally under the radar,â€ť says president and CEO Whitney Ball.