The site "represents yet another dangerous blow to the traditions of objective news reporting and, I'm afraid, the future of America's democratic discourse," Dave Zweifel of The Capital Times, one of two daily papers in the capital city of Madison, wrote last year.
Bice cited an issue that arose in August 2011 when the WisconsinReporter.com claimed that Wisconsin Jobs Now, a pro-union coalition, had bribed voters with a barbecue event and rides to the polls during last year's U.S. Senate primary.
"What they have done is influence the outcome of elections," Bice said about the story, which never resulted in any charges or findings of wrongdoing by Wisconsin Jobs Now.
Chris Hardie, executive editor of the La Crosse (Wis.) Tribune, says he has used WisconsinReporter.com content in the past, but no longer does in part because of its controversial ties.
"We did use some of their coverage early on and it's probably been a few months since we've used any of their coverage," he said in an interview. "There has certainly been plenty of controversy in the state here regarding some of the work Wisconsin Reporter has put out, where is their political slant coming from?"
"I know that there was a lot of concern about where their parent group came from and where their funding came from. Our franchise is built on credibility, whether it is fair or not, you can legitimately question because of where they get their funding from, their journalism has a purpose and that can be influenced by politics and that factored into our decision to not publish a lot of their material."
In Iowa, The Telegraph Herald of Dubuque -- which has been publishing articles from IowaPolitics.com, a Franklin Center site, since April 2011 -- noted reader concerns in a lengthy column posted Jan, 17, 2012, by Executive Editor Brian Cooper.
He acknowledged concerns about the Web site, writing:
The rap on the Franklin Center service is that its funding comes largely from conservative organizations and donors -- the center does not provide details -- and thus its news coverage leans accordingly. I am aware of this criticism of Franklin Center sites, and we approached their content with caution.
While many Franklin Center sites hide their donors, others apparently believe clear political ties are nothing for which to be ashamed. One example is Nebraska.watchdog.org, which reveals on its site ties to Pete Ricketts, leader of Nebraskans For Fiscal Accountability, a conservative organization that has donated to several Republican candidates:
Nebraska Watchdog is a groundbreaking independent news web site dedicated to original investigative and political reporting. We are affiliated and funded in part by the non-profit Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity and Pete Ricketts, founder of Drakon LLC, an asset management firm based in Omaha.
Ricketts was a 2006 Republican candidate for U.S. Senate and is the son of Joe Ricketts, the multi-millionaire founder of TD Ameritrade who recently made news after it was disclosed that his foundation had been presented with a plan to spend $10 million on ads pushing links between Barack Obama and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. (A Ricketts spokesman subsequently denied that the plan had been seriously considered.)
The Franklin Center recently extended its conservative ties further, teaming with the Heritage Foundation to co-sponsor awards in the name of the late Andrew Breitbart, a staunch right-wing commentator who was often criticized for slanted or inaccurate reporting.