Montana’s U.S. Sen. Jon Tester is cutting ties with Al Franken’s money, after allegations were made Thursday that the Democratic lawmaker from Minnesota had groped and forcibly kissed a woman in 2006.
Tester denounced Franken on Twitter, acknowledging that the Minnesota senator had donated $25,000 to Tester’s campaigns. Tester said he would donate an equal amount to the Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.
“What Al Franken did was inappropriate and unacceptable. He must be held accountable, as should anyone who treats women this way,” Tester tweeted. “In light of his actions, I will be donating the $25k from Franken to support the important work of @MT_CADSV.”
Tester is up for re-election in 2018.
Television broadcaster and former model Leeann Tweeden said Thursday that Franken had groped and forcibly kissed her in 2006 while the two were on a USO tour performing to soldiers stationed abroad. A photo of Franken, arms extended, reaching for Tweeden’s breasts as she slept on a military flight, went viral on social media as news of the encounter spread.
Al Franken has been accused of groping and kissing a woman in 2006, before he became a senator.— CNN (@CNN) November 16, 2017
“I couldn’t believe it. He groped me, without my consent, while I was asleep,” Leeann Tweeden says, including this photograph in her accusation. https://t.co/gTqFe3R7Nb pic.twitter.com/EglLGWJpv1
Franken apologized and requested the Senate launch an ethics investigation into his conduct.
Franken has been a significant contributor to Democratic candidates and organizations this decade. In addition to donating to Tester, Franken has given $12,500 to the Montana Democratic Party since 2011. A state party spokesman told The Gazette that Montana Democrats would not be making donation arrangements similar to Tester's.
“The accounts where that money was contributed do not even exist anymore," said Roy Loewenstein, a party spokesman. "Sen. Franken’s actions were appalling, and we condemn them completely."
Kelsen Young, executive director of the MCADSV, said the organization welcomed Tester’s donation.
“We appreciate Sen. Tester and are grateful for his support,” Young wrote in an email to The Gazette. “We are excited for the opportunity to use these funds to make a difference in Montana.”
Young said she learned about Tester’s plans for the donation around 2 p.m. Thursday, and since the announcement was unexpected, the organization had no immediate plans for how to use the money.
Young said Tester’s office contacted MCADSV shortly before announcing the donation on Twitter.
Montana State Auditor Matt Rosendale, one of five Republicans hoping to challenge Tester in next year's general election, called on Montana's senior senator to return Franken's money almost at the same time Tester was renouncing Franken.
"The disturbing images and account of Senator Franken today leave no doubt in my mind that serious wrongs have been committed," Rosendale posted on Twitter. "Not only should Jon Tester denounce Mr. Franken, but he should return Franken's $25,000 in donations immediately."
The disturbing images and account of Senator Franken today leave no doubt in my mind that serious wrongs have been committed. Not only should Jon Tester denounce Mr. Franken, but he should return Franken’s $25,000 in donations immediately. #mtpol #mtsen— Matt Rosendale (@MattForMontana) November 16, 2017
It has been a rough couple weeks of shame by association for congressional candidates loosely associated with Franken this week or Alabama Republican senatorial candidate Roy Moore last week.
Democrats were quick to point out last week that Rosendale and Moore were both endorsed by Steve Bannon, former chief strategist for President Donald Trump.
Rosendale had appeared on nationally syndicated radio personality Laura Ingraham's show Tuesday, during which he advised Americans not to rush to judgement on Moore.