MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A major longtime donor to Democratic women is reportedly questioning her support of female lawmakers on Capitol Hill in light of how quickly many moved to oust Al Franken from his U.S. Senate seat.
According to The New York Times and BuzzFeed, Susie Tompkins Buell is rethinking how she will continue to support Democratic women in Washington after several women senators made a near-simultaneous call last month for Franken to step down following accusations of sexual misconduct, which he disputed.
“In my gut they moved too fast,” Buell told the newspaper, adding that the former Minnesota senator was “never given a chance to tell his side of the story.”
“For me this is dangerous and wrong,” she said. “I am a big believer in helping more women into the political system but this has given me an opportunity to rethink of how I can best help my party.”
Buell, who has given millions to Democratic causes, specifically criticized the actions of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, of New York, who started the avalanche of resignation calls that eventually led to Franken announcing that he would step down.
Franken, who was first elected to the Senate in 2008, was one of several politicians, media figures and other male celebrities to be accused of sexual misdeeds in the last several months and lose their jobs.
For the former “Saturday Night Live” cast member, it started in November, when radio host Leeann Tweeden accused him of forcibly kissing her and groping her breasts during a USO tour. Within days, other women stepped forward, accusing Franken of grabbing their backsides during photo opportunities.
Initially, Franken apologized without explicitly admitting guilt to any of the groping charges. He said he planned to return to work in the Senate.
However, on Dec. 6, Gillibrand publicly called for Franken to step down, kicking off what appeared to be a coordinated effort to force the Minnesota senator from Capitol Hill so that the Democrats could clear their ranks of men accused of sexual misconduct. Both in Washington and in Minnesota, Democratic lawmakers called for Franken to resign.
Just days later, Franken announced that he would indeed step down in a speech on the Senate floor, where he described some of the accusations against him as straight-up false.
To fill his seat, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, appointed Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, who was officially sworn into the Senate last week. Smith will hold Franken’s seat until a November special election, in which she plans to run.
As for Buell, who says she’s not friends with Franken but has met him, she’s not sure if she’ll continue to support Gillibrand and others in the way she has for many years.
“I believe she miscalculated and has shot herself in the foot,” she told The Times. “I have supported her for many years. Will I going forward? To be determined.”
Following the announcement of Franken’s resignation, some Democratic lawmakers expressed dismay at what their colleagues – and even they themselves – had done.
“Atrocious,” Sen. Joe Manchin, (D – W.Va.) described it to Politico, adding that his party should have let Franken respond to the accusations before the Ethics Committee.
“The most hypocritical thing I’ve ever seen done to a human being — and then have enough guts to sit on the floor, watch him give his speech and go over and hug him? That’s hypocrisy at the highest level I’ve ever seen in my life,” he said. “Made me sick.”