FrontPorchFlimflam.com asks state officials to take a look
MONTPELIER, Vt. – Today, newly launched website FrontPorchFlimflam.com contacted, via email, Vermont Governor Phil Scott, Secretary of State Jim Condos, Attorney General Susanne R. Young, Secretary-elect Sarah Copeland Hanzas, AG-elect Charity Clark, and leadership in the Vermont legislature to ask that they examine Vermont public benefit corporation Front Porch Forum.
FrontPorchFlimflam.com went live earlier this month in order to share the story of two Vermont residents, Kristian and Deborah Connolly, who were recently unjustly banished from Front Porch Forum.
In today's letter, FrontPorchFlimflam.com founder Kristian Connolly asks state officials to "examine Front Porch Forum, its practices, and its impact on communities across Vermont in order to determine whether its meeting its obligations as a public benefit corporation, as well as meeting the image that it puts forth to members of the public in how it describes what the business is, how it operates, and how the money it receives is used."
Even though it is NOT a nonprofit, Front Porch Forum markets itself in nonprofit-like ways, and generates revenue via hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from thousands of individual citizens (even using its donors to fundraise on FPF's behalf in individual neighborhood forums), as well as from paid advertising by "mostly Vermont small businesses, nonprofits, government agencies and political campaigns." It receives foundation grants, as well as taxpayer money – from the federal government, state government, and local governments in Vermont.
FPF calls itself "essential civic infrastructure in Vermont." FPF is lauded far and wide by some big names in media and tech: Eli Pariser, Julia Angwin, Ethan Zuckerman, Michelle Goldberg, Micah Sifry, Anne Applebaum, Andrew Liptak, and more. The carefully crafted narrative used in its various donation campaigns, its media coverage and marketing copy, and its FAQs present FPF as being something it is decidedly not.
Today's letter goes on to state that:
"There's a disconnect between the private FPF that will do to me (and my wife) what FPF has done, and the public FPF that the very next day publishes this and says, "We love her perspective on this." Those two FPFs are not the same place, and that's what's deceiving people. Not just donors, obviously, but anyone who thinks that FPF is the place to engage with their community in a variety of ways. They believe those things because FPF says that's what it's for. But the reality is that FPF is deciding how communities engage, what members of that community can engage, and about what those people can discuss as a community. I'm sorry, but that's just not right, no matter how legal it might be.
"And because there is money involved – individually, from governments that are paying FPF with taxpayer funds, etc. – it's even more disturbing, and unconscionable."
Today's letter closes by saying: "I am reaching out to you in your official positions to ask that you consider taking a good look at Front Porch Forum: its status under Vermont law as a public benefit corporation; more generally its actions as a business; and the various practices it employs to falsely describe what it is to members/donors/advertisers/governments. In sum, to look at whether Front Porch Forum is what you believe it is, whether it is what most people believe it is, and what, if anything, can be done to change the situation if you decide that Front Porch Forum is not what it purports to be."
For the full story of Kristian and Deborah's experience with Front Porch Forum, as well as finding the full letter emailed to state officials today, please visit FrontPorchFlimflam.com.