MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO)  –  Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mike McFadden is hitting back against a campaign ad that portrays him as a ruthless businessman.

The ad, from Democratic Sen. Al Franken, says McFadden’s company worked on a deal that shut down a paper mill and resulted in layoffs.

The Franken ad features laid-off workers at a Montana paper mill blaming McFadden’s investment firm for shutting down their plant.

The McFadden campaign says the tough 60 second ad is false.

And McFadden’s taken the unusual step of rounding up business leaders and a former co-worker to plead his case.

“Mike McFadden has never closed a single plant, or laid off a single worker,” said Robin Engelson, former Managing Director at Lazard Middle Market. “Sen. Franken is smart enough to know the nuances of what investment banks do and don’t do. And this was an intentional manipulation to stir up emotion.”

Bankruptcy documents provided by the McFadden campaign show that a different Lazard company–Lazard Freres–handled part of the paper mill restructuring during the bankruptcy of Smurfit-Stone Container Corporation.

Those documents state: “The financial advisory firm of Lazard Frèses & Co. LLC, 190 S. LaSalle Street, 31st Floor, Chicago Illinois 60603, be and hereby is, retained and employed as financial and investment consultants for the Company in connection with the prosecution of the Company’s case under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code.”

However, McFadden’s Lazard Middle Market firm claimed credit for the deal on it’s website and apparently removed it after the ad began running.

Sen. Franken defended the ad during WCCO’s Sunday debate, claiming McFadden isn’t telling the whole truth about the shutdown.

“It closed because of a deal that Mr. McFadden’s company was advising on restructuring,” Franken said.

The Franken campaign has slowly turned up the heat on some of McFadden’s past business and tax deals, including a series of ads accusing McFadden of profiting from tax inversions, which he also denies.

And with a week left to go in the race, the McFadden campaign says it will push back on every claim.

“We don’t believe we can allow Al Franken to steal another election based on lies,” said Carl Kuhl, McFadden’s campaign manager.

Franken campaign communications director Alexandra Fetissoff issued this statement:

“Mike McFadden has yet to offer any kind of explanation as to why his company, while he was CEO, took credit for advising on this restructuring on their website, even after being criticized for it a year and a half ago. He and his firm have had a year and a half to correct the record and only abruptly scrubbed all mention of their work when this ad started running.”

McFadden is on leave from Lazard Middle Management.

He says his work as an investment banker involved only advising businesses on financing and re-financing, and never included operational decisions such as opening or closing plants.

Lazard Middle Management did not respond to a request to clarify its role– if any– in the Montana paper mill shutdown.

Pat Kessler

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