Billionaire Dem Silent on Franken Donations

Congressional hopeful Dean Phillips condemned Franken's behavior, but silent on past contributions

Dean Phillips / Getty Images

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A billionaire Minnesota Democrat running for Congress distanced himself from accused sexual harasser Sen. Al Franken, but refused to say whether he stands by his campaign donations to the two-term Democrat.

Franken has been accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women since a photograph of then-comedian Franken groping a sleeping female reporter emerged on Friday. Radio reporter and former Playboy model Leeann Tweeden accused Franken of forcing his tongue down her throat and groping her while the pair were on a USO tour in 2006.

The accusations led Dean Phillips, a billionaire heir to one of the state's largest liquor empires and grandson of "Dear Abby" columnist Pauline Phillips, to distance himself from Franken on social media as he runs to unseat Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen in Minnesota's third district.

Phillips tweeted he was "extremely disappointed" in Franken's behavior and called for a Senate inquiry into accusations of misconduct. While he "strongly condemned" the contents of the photo, Phillips also emphasized Franken's willingness to "fully cooperate" in any investigation.

"While the recent deluge of harassment stories is both shocking and saddening, I believe the women who are coming forward and I admire their courage," he said in a statement posted to Facebook. "Their stories inspire me to advocate for fundamental changes in our society and culture, so that this sort of behavior is no longer tolerated and to ensure it doesn't occur in the first place."

Phillips stopped short of a pair of prominent fellow Democrats, including state auditor and gubernatorial candidate Rebecca Otto, who called on Franken to resign.

He also did not address his past support for Franken's political career in either statement.

Phillips contributed $2,000 to Franken's reelection campaign in October 2014. He has remained silent about whether he stands by the donation or will ask for the contribution to be returned. He did not respond to Washington Free Beacon requests for comment.

Phillips has made feminist issues a priority in his campaign. His website lists "equity and families" among his top five priorities if elected and laments that "much remains to be done to ensure equal opportunities" in the workplace for women.

"I will push for equal pay for equal work, develop sensible family leave policies, protect a woman’s right to access healthcare, strengthen public education, and tackle disparities," the site says.

Phillips has been a longtime Democratic donor, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

He made 128 federal election contributions totaling $332,827 dating back to 2002 with all of that money going to Democrats. He has contributed $131,300 to the DNC since 2007, as well as $71,800 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in 2006 and 2016. He contributed about $20,000 to the Minnesota Democratic Farmer Labor Party, including a $10,000 contribution in Feb. 2017 as he set his sites on his party's nomination to in the Third District congressional race.

He has also helped finance election efforts at the state and local level, directing nearly $25,000 to state parties across the country, including swing states such as Ohio, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania during presidential elections.

Franken has apologized for his actions, but his office has said he does not intend to resign over the allegations.

Bill McMorris   Email Bill | Full Bio | RSS
Bill McMorris is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon. He joins the Beacon from the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, where he was managing editor of Old Dominion Watchdog. He was a 2010 Robert Novak Fellow with the Phillips Foundation, where he studied state pension shortfalls. His work has been featured on CNN, Fox News, The Economist, Colbert Report, and numerous print publications and radio stations. He lives in Alexandria, Va, with his wife and three daughters. His Twitter handle is @FBillMcMorris. His email address is mcmorris@freebeacon.com.

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