With Franken's star dimmed, Democrats stand to lose major fundraiser

US Senator Al Franken turns to greet people.
Senator Al Franken turns to greet a few more people after exiting the stage at the DFL Election Night Party at the Hilton Hotel in Minneapolis on Nov. 8, 2016.
Courtney Perry | MPR News 2016

With DFL Senator Al Franken's political future uncertain, Democrats stand to lose a campaign superstar.

Franken has raised millions on behalf of candidates around the country over the years and has been a tireless campaigner for Minnesota Democrats. But after allegations of sexual misconduct arose Thrusday, that could all be over.

Prior to narrowly winning election to the Senate in 2008, Franken started his Midwest Values Political Action Committee. The PAC launched in 2005, a year before Franken allegedly groped and forcibly kissed a woman he had been performing with on a USO tour in Afghanistan.

In 2006 the PAC spent almost $140,000 to help fund the campaigns of nearly 40 congressional Democrats, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. It also donated a total of more than $50,000 to the U.S. House and Senate Democratic campaign committees that year.

In the 2016 campaign cycle, Franken's PAC doled out $340,000 to help Hillary Clinton and dozens of House and Senate Democrats. Since its inception Franken's PAC has raised almost $8 million.

After Thursday's allegations, Franken's status among Democrats has taken a serious hit, said Inside Elections Editor Nathan Gonzales.

"At a minimum these allegations hurt his ability to help colleagues or to help Democratic candidates and dramatically bring down the number of people who would even want him to come by," Gonzales said. "Right now there are Democrat candidates around the country who are giving his previous donations to charity and trying to distance themselves from him."

If Franken's political career survives a Senate ethics investigation it's questionable whether he will return to being the sought after speaker and fundraiser he had become, said Hamline University professor David Schultz.

"If in fact Al Franken is thinking of running for a third term in 2020 he's going to probably be able to spend less time across the country campaigning for others," Schultz said. "He'll have to worry more about making sure that he shores up his base in Minnesota if he wants to run again."

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