Iowa Dem Candidate Sidesteps Self-Imposed Corporate PAC Money Ban

Mike Franken also took money from disgraced former senator Al Franken

Democratic Senate candidate Mike Franken (Getty Images)
August 18, 2022

Iowa Democratic Senate candidate Mike Franken pledged to run for office "without taking one dime of corporate PAC money." That promise didn’t preclude him from taking thousands from corporate-funded groups.

"I don’t take any corporate PAC money," Franken said in June. "Not a penny." But that same month, the Iowa Democrat received $5,000 from Sen. Tim Kaine’s (D., Va.) Common Ground PAC, which accepted donations from Pfizer, Capital One, and Amazon. Franken took $2,500 from Sen. Mark Kelly’s (D., Ariz.) Liftoff PAC, which is funded by the National Association of Realtors, and another $2,500 from Sen. Tina Smith’s (D., Minn.) Velvet Hammer PAC, which boasts contributions from Wells Fargo, Delta Air Lines, and Goldman Sachs.

The donations could spell trouble for the Senate candidate, who has decried "corporate greed" and accused incumbent Sen. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) of being beholden to "corporate donors."

The Senate candidate also took $2,500 from disgraced former Democratic senator Al Franken’s Midwest Values PAC. The ex-comedian resigned in 2018 following accusations of sexual harassment, but said last year he is open to running again for office. His PAC raised hundreds of thousands of dollars even after his departure.

A Franken campaign spokesman said the candidate "has never taken a dime from corporate PACs." He did not comment on any other corporate donations.

Franken, a retired Navy vice admiral, came under fire in July when he said he "did not serve" to defend the rights of people who criticize President Joe Biden. He is the third Iowa Democrat to skirt a self-imposed corporate PAC donation ban after Rep. Cindy Axne and Abby Finkenauer, whom Franken bested during the Senate primary.

Finkenauer lost by 15 points in June during the Democratic primary to Franken, who was defeated in 2020 by failed Democratic Senate candidate Theresa Greenfield. Sen. Joni Ernst (R., Iowa) beat Greenfield in the general election by 6 points, though the Democrat raised twice as much money for her campaign.

Franken raked in $1.7 million during the last fundraising period, outraising Grassley by more than two to one. The Republican still holds more cash in hand, and won his last election by a nearly 25-point margin.

Grassley campaign manager Matt Dailer told the Washington Free Beacon that Franken should either return the donations or "admit his pledge was nothing more than a hollow stunt."

"Mike Franken hasn't even been elected to office and he's already breaking his word to Iowans," Dailer said. "He can make up any excuse he wants, but Iowans see through his dishonest word games."