Washington D.C. is dealing with a new sexual harassment scandal that has money ties to Wisconsin. Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) was accused of sexually harassing Leeann Tweeden, a morning news anchor on TalkRadio 790 KABC in Los Angeles, while on a USO trip in December 2006. In addition to Tweeden’s story about Franken, there is a photo of the future senator grabbing her breasts while she slept on the flight home.
Republicans, and some Democrats, have been quick to call on Franken to resign. Franken has issued an apology where he “does not remember” forcibly kissing Tweeden but says there is no excuse for the photo.
“For instance, that picture. I don’t know what was in my head when I took that picture, and it doesn’t matter. There’s no excuse. I look at it now and I feel disgusted with myself. It isn’t funny. It’s completely inappropriate. It’s obvious how Leeann would feel violated by that picture. And, what’s more, I can see how millions of other women would feel violated by it—women who have had similar experiences in their own lives, women who fear having those experiences, women who look up to me, women who have counted on me.”
Besides serving as a U.S. Senator, Franken has been a source of campaign dollars for Democrats through his PAC, “Midwest Values PAC.”
Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) has been a major recipient of Franken’s campaign donations, receiving $10000 in the current election cycle and another $5000 in the 2012 election cycle. In addition, Franken has made fundraising appeals on behalf of Baldwin, video appeals, and the two have even made joint appearances both for her campaign and to raise money for Franken’s PAC at an event in Chicago.
In an interview with the Minnesota Post, Franken even took credit for helping Baldwin get elected in 2012.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee has called on Baldwin to return the money she received from Franken and his PAC.
After today’s shocking revelations regarding Senator Al Franken’s behavior towards women, Tammy Baldwin must denounce her Democrat colleague and return campaign donations she received from him.
Franken has been a longtime supporter of Baldwin, donating $15,000 to her campaigns. If Baldwin won’t immediate denounce Franken and return his donations, it will be clear she puts partisan politics over basic decency.
Baldwin stopped short of calling for Franken’s resignation or promising to return the donations. (See update below. Baldwin is donating the money to charity.) Instead, she called for a Senate Ethics Committee investigation even though the incident took place before Franken was a senator. (Franken has also volunteered to be investigated by the Senate Ethics Committee.)
Baldwin herself was the subject of an ethics investigation after the Tomah VA Scandal and her dismissal of former Baldwin office deputy state director Marquette Baylor. Baldwin hired Marc Elias of Perkins Coie, now embroiled in the Russian dossier scandal, as a political fixer to handle the fallout.
Another beneficiary of Franken’s PAC is Randy Bryce, a Democratic candidate for Congress in Wisconsin’s first congressional district. Bryce received $1500 from Franken’s PAC in his campaign to unseat House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI01).
Bryce is an enthusiastic backer of Franken’s. On the same day the scandal broke, Bryce bragged on Twitter about meeting Franken and reading Franken’s book.
The Republican National Congressional Committee has called on Bryce to return the campaign donations. “Red Carpet Randy should immediately denounce his friend Al Franken and return the contributions Franken made to his campaign,”NRCC spokesman Chris Martin said in a statement to RightWisconsin. “Silence should be interpreted as endorsing Franken’s disgusting behavior.”
Bryce has not issued a statement on Franken or the campaign donations.
Update! 2:01 PM
According to Jessie Opoien of the Capital Times, Randy Bryce’s campaign is referring reporters to a statement by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee:
.@IronStache campaign points to @dccc statement on Franken contributions —> pic.twitter.com/XLsgxG8hUZ
— Jessie Opoien (@jessieopie) November 16, 2017
It’s unknown to which charity Bryce is supposedly donating the money. Baldwin, according to Opoien, still has not commented on the campaign donations to her.
Here is a screen capture of an appeal by Franken on YouTube asking for money for Baldwin in 2012:
Update! 2:47 PM According to Josh Kraushaar of Hotline, Baldwin now says she will donate the campaign contributions to charity. It is unclear if that includes the 2012 contribution. She has not yet called on Franken to resign.
Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin, on MSNBC, says she's donating her Franken cash to a charity. She's up for reelection in 2018.
— Josh Kraushaar (@HotlineJosh) November 16, 2017
Jason Stein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says Baldwin is giving the money to a group that supports veterans.
.@SenatorBaldwin tells MSNBC that she will donate Franken's contributions to an initiative for women veterans.
— Jason Stein (@jasonmdstein) November 16, 2017
It’s an interesting, and very political, choice of charity for Baldwin given her office’s failure to deal with the problems at the Tomah VA Hospital when a whistleblower brought the problems to her attention.