Al Franken

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Al Franken is a U.S. Senator from Minnesota

Al Franken, a comedian, author, and public commentator, is a U.S. Democratic Senator from Minnesota since July 2009. He beat incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) who was in his first term as senator.[1][2]

Franken is a member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, which affiliates with the Democratic Party. [3]

Positions and record

War in Iraq

Franken has said that planning for a withdrawal of American troops needs to begin immediately. He believes the Iraqi government is unable to meet "the political benchmarks necessary to make progress" in the country, and has said the war was started "under false pretenses." He has also criticized the conduct of the war under the Bush Administration, and singled out Sen. Norm Coleman, his likely opponent in the November 2008 general election, over voting to keep troops in Iraq.[4]

Franken argued that:

  • A withdrawal of American troops is the only way of showing the Maliki government that the U.S. will not remain in Iraq indefinitely.
  • Troops should be withdrawn following a national discussion, and that process should begin immediately.
  • A regional conference should be convened "including Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey, and Egypt to come up with a long-term plan for Iraq and ensure that a regional conflict does not arise."[4]
"Al Franken Blasts Sen Norm Coleman For Lack Of Iraq Oversight"

According to Franken, the Republican-controlled Congress "refus[ed] to do any oversight of the war." Franken also argued that Coleman neglected to investigate alleged improprieties involving contractors working on reconstruction in Iraq:

Norm Coleman, as chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, didn’t even hold a single hearing into contracting by Halliburton and other corporations – while waste, fraud, and the misappropriation of billions of dollars torpedoed the reconstruction of Iraq. Every dollar that didn’t go towards getting up the electricity and the water, taking care of the sewage, and putting Iraqis to work alienated the population and fueled the insurgency, making a difficult mission impossible and sending the country into total chaos.[4]

Health care

Franken favors universal health care.[5] He bases his position on the following arguments:

  • Between 2000-2005, the number of Americans living without health insurance grew from 39.8 million to 46.6 million.
    • The number of children without health insurance grew to 8.3 million in 2005.
  • U.S. health care spending is higher than other industrialized nations, at 16% of GDP.
  • Other industrialized countries insure 100% of their populations.
  • The U.S. spends almost twice as much on administrative costs as others countries.
  • The World Health Organization ranked the U.S. 37th.[5]

While he argues that a single-payer system would save the most money in administrative costs, Franken also sees other methods of achieving better health care. During his campaign, Franken also offered a number of additional health care-related proposals, arguing that:

  • Every child in America should be given coverage
  • Mental illnesses and addictions should be treated as health issues
  • The "full potential of stem cell research" should be harnessed
  • Electronic medical records should be used
  • Medicare should be allowed to negotiate for lower-priced medication.[5]

Energy and the environment

Franken supports a large government-initiated effort to explore alternative energy sources, based on the 1960s-era Apollo program. He said such a program is needed to "fundamentally change our energy policy and end our reliance on foreign oil." That dependence, Franken said, has increased since 2000.[6]

He argues:

With a real Apollo Program to develop these new sources, we can save our environment, finally address global warming, make our nation less dependent and more secure, and create high-tech, high-paying jobs in the process. That’s jobs in conservation, jobs in renewable energy research, and jobs in manufacturing. You know that Ford plant in St. Paul that’s closing down? We should be making wind turbines there![6]

According to Franken, the benefits of such a program will include:

  • Dramatic improvements for the environment.
  • A reduced dependence on a "global fuel economy" that will make the nation more secure.
  • A revitalized manufacturing sector.
  • The creation of high-tech, high-paying jobs in conservation and research and development.[6]


The nation's education system needs to be fully funded, Franken argues, while other reforms should be made to address classroom management and improve student performance. According to Franken, "every public school in America should have small class sizes, well-maintained facilities, plenty of school supplies, and more support staff."[7]

Franken also proposes changes to the way performance is measured at schools across the country. He suggested:

  • The elimination of "arbitrary performance standards."
  • A year-long review of of students' performance, involving teachers, rather than relying on single tests.
  • Tests for measuring critical thinking, teamwork, creativity and other skills, in addition to those for math and reading comprehension.
  • A shift away from punishment for under-performing schools toward a system to help them improve.[7]

The candidate has also advocated for improvements beyond the grade-school classroom, including proposals to invest in early childhood education, teacher recruitment, and grants and loan-forgiveness for college students who promise to teach.[7]

Labor rights

A union member himself, Franken has said he would co-sponsor the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill he said "would make it easier for employees who want to organize to do so without harassment or intimidation, and would reform a labor relations system currently dominated by corporate interests."[8]

Retirement and pensions

Franken has also said he would fight any efforts to privatize Social Security, "preserve the integrity of our occupational safety and prevailing wage laws," and insist trade agreements are grounded in "fair trade."[8]


Franken said he's a supporter of comprehensive immigration reform, starting with enforcement of laws at worksites that employ illegal immigrants. He said employers who violate such laws should be fined or imprisoned, and that worker identification should be tamper-proof to make enforcement feasible.[9]

He said deportation of the millions of undocumented immigrants is not practical, and suggested they be placed on a path to citizenship if they:

  • have been working
  • have paid taxes
  • have not committed any crimes since coming to this country
  • speak, or are learning to speak, English
  • pay a nominal fine[9]


FOX v. Franken

Franken parodied Fox News motto, "fair and balanced," in his book Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right. Fox responded with a lawsuit that claimed that his use of the phrase "fair and balanced" infringed upon the company's trademark and that photos of Bill O'Reilly should not be used on the cover. [1]

U.S. District Judge Denny Chin dismissed the Fox claim: "There are hard cases and there are easy cases. This is an easy case in my view and wholly without merit, both factually and legally ... Parody is a form of artistic expression protected by the First Amendment and the keystone of parody is imitation ...It is ironic that a media company, which should be seeking to protect the First Amendment, is seeking to undermine it by claiming a monopoly on the phrase, 'Fair and Balanced.'," Chin said. [2]

Campaign funding

Fundraising comparisons

In the second quarter of 2007, Franken raised over $1.9 million. This total bested incumbent Norm Coleman by $300,000, as Coleman raised $1.6 million during the same period. Franken's main Democratic rival for the nomination, attorney Mike Ciresi, raised $750,000 during the second quarter of 2007.[10] Ciresi dropped out of the race in March 2008.[11] Franken was able to draw on an unusually large national donor-base, with roughly 3/4 of his donations coming from outside of Minnesota.

Norman Hsu campaign donations

Upon hearing revelations of Norman Hsu's fugitive status, Franken decided to divest the $2,300 he received in contributions from Hsu.[12]

Money in politics

This section contains links to – and feeds from – money in politics databases.

Campaign contributions

The following is drawn from government records of campaign contributions to Al Franken. Campaign contributions are one of the most direct conduits for influencing members of Congress. How to use this information. <crpcontribdata>cid=N00029016&cycle=2008</crpcontribdata>


"In 1975, Franken was part of the original writing staff that created Saturday Night Live. Franken remained with the original show until 1980 and then returned in 1985. He stayed for another 10 years, leaving after the 1994-1995 season. Franken received four Emmys for writing and a fifth for producing."[13]

He is the author of several bestselling books, including Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot: And Other Observations and Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right.

Most recently, Franken hosted The Al Franken Show, originally called The O'Franken Factor, on the liberal talk radio network Air America Radio. On January 29, 2007, it was announced that Stephen Green, founder and chairman of SL Green Realty Corporation, was in the process of purchasing the radio network and that Franken's "last day on the air would be Feb. 14, and that his noon-3pm ET time slot would be taken over by Portland, Ore.-based talk show host Thom Hartmann."[14]

Wikipedia also has an article on Al Franken. This article may use content from the Wikipedia article under the terms of the GFDL.

Franklin wins the 2008 Senate race

Franken challenged Republican incumbent Norm Coleman, a first-term Senator whom Democrats considered highly vulnerable in the 2008 election.[15] He won in primary elections which took place on September 9, 2008. [2] [16]

When Franken initially announced his candidacy he faced a seemingly strong primary opponent in Democrat Mike Ciresi and the prospect of a tough general election race against incumbent Republican Senator Norm Coleman. As the race progressed, however, Franken overcame Ciresi and gained ground on Coleman. By the end of March 2008, Rasmussen polling data had Franken pulling almost even with Coleman.[17]

Recount controversy

As of January 7, 2009, the Minnesota state canvassing board released the results of their recount which show Al Franken with a 225 vote lead over incumbent Norm Coleman in a bitterly contested election. Norm Coleman had already announced he would challenge the results in court. Franken was unable to take the Senate seat because he did not receive the required certification from the Governor's office until the Coleman challenge was completed.[18]

On June 30, 2009, after an eight-month legal battle, the Minnesota Supreme Court finally declared Franklin the winner. The former incumbent Norm Coleman conceded the race and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) certified the election results.[1]

Committees and affiliations

Franken is a member of four unions: the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, Screen Actors Guild, Directors Guild of America, and the Writers Guild of America.[19]


Franken received the following endorsements in the 2008 race (source is assumed to be Franken's campaign website unless otherwise noted):


Washington, DC Office
320 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: 202-224-5641

Saint Paul Office
60 East Plato Blvd
Suite 220
Saint Paul, MN 55107
Phone: 651-221-1016

Email: info AT

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles


  1. 1.0 1.1 Al Franken profile, The Washington Post, accessed January 2011.
  2. 2.0 2.1 “Minnesota 2008 General Election,"The Green Papers, September 10, 2008
  3. Al Franken profile, Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, accessed January 2011.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Al Franken, "Issues:Iraq",, retrieved April 10, 2008
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Al Franken, "Issues:Health Care",, retrieved April 10, 2008
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Al Franken, "Issues:Renewable Energy",, retrieved April 10, 2008
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Al Franken, "Issues:Education",, retrieved April 10, 2008
  8. 8.0 8.1 Al Franken, "Issues:Education",, retrieved April 10, 2008
  9. 9.0 9.1 Al Franken, "Issues:Education",, retrieved April 10, 2008
  10. Josh Kraushaar, "Franken funds leave opponents in the dust," The Politico, July 12, 2007.
  11. "Ciresi Drops Out Of U.S. Senate Race", WCCO.COM, March 10, 2008.
  12. Jim Kuhnhenn, "Clinton to give away fundraiser's cash," AP News via Talking Points Memo, August 29, 2007.
  13. Al Franken, "Al Franken," Working America.
  14. Louise Story, "Air America Radio Agrees to Be Acquired by a New York Real Estate Investor," New York Times, January 30, 2007.
  15. Staff Reports, "Official: Al Franken to Make Senate Run in Minnesota," AP, accessed via FoxNews, January 31, 2007.
  16. Greg Giroux, "Franken Primary Win One of Many Key Results from Tuesday’s Primaries",CQ Politics, September 10, 2008
  17. Staff Reports, "2008 Minnesota Senate General Election: Coleman (R-i) vs Franken (D),", April 8, 2008.
  18. "Coleman Goes to Court Over Senate Recount", Star Tribune, January 7, 2009
  19. "AFSCME endorses Franken for U.S. Senate," Workday Minnesota, Nov. 20, 2007.

External resources


Web sites

External articles

Archives of Franken on SNL and Air America