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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.
Franken is a member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, which affiliates with the Democratic Party. 
- 1 Positions and record
- 2 Controversies
- 3 Campaign funding
- 4 Money in politics
- 5 Bio
- 6 Committees and affiliations
- 7 Contact
- 8 Articles and resources
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.
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- Troops should be withdrawn following a national discussion, and that process should begin immediately.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."
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
- 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!
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.
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."
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.
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.
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."
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."
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.
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
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. 
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. 
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. Ciresi dropped out of the race in March 2008. 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
Money in politics
This section contains links to – and feeds from – money in politics databases.
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."
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."
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. He won in primary elections which took place on September 9, 2008.  
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.
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.
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.
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.
Franken received the following endorsements in the 2008 race (source is assumed to be Franken's campaign website unless otherwise noted):
- Minnesota AFL-CIO
Washington, DC Office
320 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Saint Paul Office
60 East Plato Blvd
Saint Paul, MN 55107
Email: info AT franken.senate.gov
Articles and resources
Related SourceWatch articles
- Al Franken profile, The Washington Post, accessed January 2011.
- “Minnesota 2008 General Election,"The Green Papers, September 10, 2008
- Al Franken profile, Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, accessed January 2011.
- Al Franken, "Issues:Iraq", AlFranken.com, retrieved April 10, 2008
- Al Franken, "Issues:Health Care", AlFranken.com, retrieved April 10, 2008
- Al Franken, "Issues:Renewable Energy", AlFranken.com, retrieved April 10, 2008
- Al Franken, "Issues:Education", AlFranken.com, retrieved April 10, 2008
- Al Franken, "Issues:Education", AlFranken.com, retrieved April 10, 2008
- Al Franken, "Issues:Education", AlFranken.com, retrieved April 10, 2008
- Josh Kraushaar, "Franken funds leave opponents in the dust," The Politico, July 12, 2007.
- "Ciresi Drops Out Of U.S. Senate Race", WCCO.COM, March 10, 2008.
- Jim Kuhnhenn, "Clinton to give away fundraiser's cash," AP News via Talking Points Memo, August 29, 2007.
- Al Franken, "Al Franken," Working America.
- Louise Story, "Air America Radio Agrees to Be Acquired by a New York Real Estate Investor," New York Times, January 30, 2007.
- Staff Reports, "Official: Al Franken to Make Senate Run in Minnesota," AP, accessed via FoxNews, January 31, 2007.
- Greg Giroux, "Franken Primary Win One of Many Key Results from Tuesday’s Primaries",CQ Politics, September 10, 2008
- Staff Reports, "2008 Minnesota Senate General Election: Coleman (R-i) vs Franken (D)," Pollster.com, April 8, 2008.
- "Coleman Goes to Court Over Senate Recount", Star Tribune, January 7, 2009
- "AFSCME endorses Franken for U.S. Senate," Workday Minnesota, Nov. 20, 2007.
- Al Franken and The Al Franken Show in the Wikipedia.
- Filmography: Al Franken, IMDb.com.
- Federal Campaign Contribution Report: Al Franken, NewsMeat.
- Franken for Senate Web site
- Al Franken Sense.com, "The Al Franken Fan Club and Forum".
- AlFrankenWeb.com, "The Unofficial Al Franken Forum".
- The Al Franken Show, Air America Radio.
- The Al Franken Show, Sundance Channel.
Archives of Franken on SNL and Air America
- Richard Blow, Interview: Al Franken: "He's good enough, he's smart enough, and, doggone it, most people like him," MotherJones, November/December 1996.
- Scott Vogel, "Al Franken and the Lying Liars," BuzzFlash (AlterNet), June 13, 2003.
- Fox News Network, "Complaint against Penguin Group & Alan S. Franken", August 7, 2003.
- Lisa de Moraes, "Three Little Words: Fox News Sues," Washington Post, August 12, 2003.
- Phil Hirschkorn, "Fox News loses attempt to block satirist's book", CNN, August 22, 2003
- Patricia Hurtado, "Fox Blocked In Suit Against Al Franken's Book", New York Newsday, August 22, 2003.
- "Fox News Drops Franken Lawsuit. After Losing Court Ruling On 'Fair' Trademark, Fox Bails," Associated Press (CBS News), August 25, 2003.
- "'They can dish it out, but they can't take it'. Al Franken talks about his big victory over the Fox News bullies, why Bush can be thrown out in 2004, and comedy as a political weapon," Salon, August 27, 2003.
- Byron York, "Al Franken’s Ugly Schtick. The angry, ugly spin of Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them," National Review Online, September 10, 2003.
- Rich Lowry, "Fisking Franken. Setting the record straight," National Review Online, March 18, 2004.
- "Franken says he's more likely than not to run for U.S. Senate in '08," Associated Press (USA TODAY), May 2, 2004.
- David Horowitz, "Al Franken: Racist," FrontPageMag.com, November 30, 2004.
- Jerayln Merritt, "Al Franken Considering Senate Run," Talk Left, January 21, 2005.
- David Paul Kuhn, "Senator Franken? He's good enough, he's smart enough, but doggone it, will people vote for him? To find out, Al Franken is moving his radio show back home to Minnesota to get ready to run against Sen. Norm Coleman," Salon, April 28, 2005.
- Jeralyn Merritt, "Al Franken Considering Senate Run," Talk Left, April 28, 2005.
- John Walsh, "Al Franken is a Big Fat Phony. Lying on Air America to Support the War," CounterPunch, May 4, 2005.
- "Klein nailed on falsehoods in Al Franken Show grilling," Media Matters for America, June 24, 2005.
- John Nichols, "Al Franken Overrules Antonin Scalia," The Nation, November 28, 2005.
- John Walsh, "Tears of a Clown. Al Franken's War," CounterPunch, June 19, 2006.
- Alex Park, "Comedian or politician? 'It’s complicated' with Al Franken," Associated Press (The Mac Weekly), January 26, 2006.
- Lindsay Beyerstein, "Candidate Franken," AlterNet, September 14, 2006.
- Amanda Terkel, "Ohio GOP Smears Al Franken In Press Release With Doctored Photo, Fabricated Quote," Think Progress, October 26, 2006.
- Jonathan Singer, "Senate 2008: Al Franken Edging Closer to a Run in Minnesota?" MyDD, December 12, 2006.
- Rick Anderson, "He Wuz Rob-bed. For Seattle's biggest-spending liberal benefactor, bankrupt Air America was a costly flyer," Seattle Weekly, January 10, 2007.
- "Comedian Al Franken Contacting Minnesota Lawmakers About Possible Senate Run," Associated Press (Fox News), January 17, 2007.
- "Comedian Franken considering Senate run," Associated Press (CNN), January 18, 2007.
- "Comedian Al Franken Asks Academics for Help in Possible Senate Run," Associated Press (Fox News), January 23, 2007.
- "Air America Radio Finds a Buyer," Associated Press (New York Times), January 29, 2007.
- Rob Kall, "Thom Hartmann to Replace Al Franken on rescued Air America Radio," OpEdNews.com, January 29, 2007.
- Aaron Blake, "Franken off the air," The Hill, January 30, 2007.
- Frederic J. Frommer, "Comedian Al Franken to Run for Senate in Minnesota; Is Leaving Radio Show This Month," Associated Press (ABC News), January 31, 2007.
- Patrick Condon, "Al Franken Enters Minnesota Senate Race," Associated Press (Washington Post), February 14, 2007.