N.C. Policy Watch: The site where Ovaska works is billed as a progressive, nonpartisan organization “with a simple mission: to change the way elected officials debate important issues and, ultimately, to improve the quality of life for all North Carolinians.” It has a blog, The Progressive Pulse, with short hits from the political news of the day within and beyond North Carolina, and the main site, with reported articles from Ovaska, commentary from Chris Fitzsimon, videos, and resources such as links to state government websites and state media. Funding for N.C. Policy Watch comes from the A.J. Fletcher Foundation, the H.J. Wyss Foundation and contributions of individual supporters.

Democracy North Carolina: This watchdog group says it uses research, organizing, and advocacy to increase voter participation and reduce the influence of big money in politics. It issues research papers in PDF form, such as a report in late February showing that the N.C. House Speaker received more than $20,000 from the consumer finance industry (read: the payday lender folks) before pushing through legislation supporting the industry. It also hands out “Sunshine Awards” that recognize state legislators who provide quality campaign finance reports; the last list included nine Democrats and 13 Republicans.

The group’s emphasis appears to be on influencing other media coverage through its research, and the reliance on PDFs can make its material somewhat difficult to navigate. But the research is solid, and it’s accompanied by helpful information for consumers and citizens, like this “How to vote” explainer. The organization has received funding from the Triangle Community Foundation and the Park Foundation, and it partners with many other organizations.

From the right

Carolina Journal: This online site also includes a print newspaper, a radio show, and five affiliated blogs across the state. The site features news stories from contributors, its editors aggregate politics and public policy news from around the state, and its columnists provide conservative thoughts for newspaper op-ed pages in North Carolina. The site’s original news stories vary in tone, with some presented as straightforward news reporting and others using value-laden words like “scheme” and “claim” rather than a simple “said.” One recent article, “Commerce official tries to divert money to his nonprofit,” echoes Ovaska’s focus on the use of federal funds.

The publications are the work of the John Locke Foundation, which calls itself an independent, nonpartisan think tank that believes in free markets, limited constitutional government, and personal responsibility. Pope, the conservative business executive and Republican supporter, helped found the think tank and serves on its board of directors. His family foundation has donated more than $17 million to the organization over the years, according to the Institute for Southern Studies. (The foundation itself takes pains to say it is not Republican, or even conservative, except in the “classically liberal” sense.)

One of the five affiliated blogs brought some embarrassment to the Carolina Journal and Locke Foundation recently, when Charlotte blogger Tara Servatius of The Meck Deck posted a photo illustration of President Barack Obama in high heels and chains, with a bucket of fried chicken. The image remained on the site for 48 hours before being taken down after complaints surfaced on blogs and in social media. Servatius resigned, and John Hood, president and chairman of the Locke Foundation, apologized. “The political discourse in our state and nation has grown increasingly coarse, unnecessarily personal, and destructively vitriolic,” he wrote. “This is the kind of episode that can only make the situation worse. We should be able to disagree about controversial issues without it coming to this.”

The incident spurred the organization to evaluate its methods of oversight of contributors. In a recent email exchange, Hood said, “We have initially decided to ensure more timely and intensive oversight of blog posts and may well institute prior editing of posts for freelancers with access to the system.”

Civitas Institute: Another organization funded by Pope, this site provides research, information, and training to “facilitate the implementation of conservative policy solutions to improve the lives of all North Carolinians.” It produces a weekly newsletter, plus Civitas Review magazine, a blog, and election analysis. Civitas also conducts polls and offers low-priced training in free-enterprise principles and policy manuals for legislators and citizens. An affiliated website, Carolina Transparency, produces some gorgeous data visualizations about voter registration and other political information. The site has received $8 million from Pope during the last decade, according to the Institute for Southern Studies.


Andria Krewson is an independent journalist in Charlotte and a student in the University of North Carolina's master of arts in technology and digital communication. She worked at The Charlotte Observer for many years. Find her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/underoak or http://twitter.com/akrewson.