How an Iowa Democratic Senate Candidate Pads His Résumé

Mike Franken tells voters he was 'Obama's chief of legislative affairs.' He wasn't.

Iowa Democratic Senate candidate Mike Franken / Getty Images
October 17, 2022

Iowa Democratic Senate candidate Mike Franken is pitching himself as a politician who "knows how to get things done in Washington." But when it comes to the details of what he's done and what role he held in doing it, things get a little hazy.

Franken told voters in August during a campaign stop that he served as former president Barack "Obama's chief of legislative affairs." He also said in March that he "pushed bills across the floor as an authorizer and appropriator" for the Department of Defense, according to a video obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. The retired U.S. Navy vice admiral did work in the department under Obama, but held neither of these positions.

Rather, Franken was head of the Defense Department's Navy Office of Legislative Affairs during the Obama administration, and had a stint as a legislative aide to former senator Ted Kennedy (D., Mass.). Obama's legislative affairs directors were Phil Schiliro, Rob Nabors, Miguel Rodriguez, Katie Beirne Fallon, and Amy Rosenbaum. The Navy office Franken served in does not handle appropriation matters, according to its website.

A spokesman for Franken's campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

The résumé padding comes as Franken is fighting off allegations concerning his record of sexual misconduct. The Iowa Democrat in March forcibly kissed his former campaign manager, according to police records recently made public by the Iowa Field Report. Others close to the situation told Politico Franken had also made them uncomfortable or "frequently crossed boundaries with women" in the past.

Franken has raised millions this election cycle in his bid to unseat incumbent Sen. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa). He trails Grassley by 9 points, according to the latest FiveThirtyEight polling average.

In September, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) admitted to colleagues he doesn't think Franken will win the race, and his super PAC is withholding spending millions of dollars in Iowa from its war chest. Franken has said he believes Schumer is "proud of how we're doing."

Franken has also said on the campaign trail that Schumer would put him, when he gets to Congress, "on the Committee of National Security Affairs," which is not a real committee.

The Iowa Democrat has made other outlandish claims while campaigning. In June, Franken alleged Republicans were leading a capitalist-evangelical cabal to "dumb down" youth through "a war on education." He has also shown scant understanding of Americans' free speech rights he would have to defend as a U.S. senator.