Iowa Republicans responded to the accusations surrounding Mike Franken, Iowa’s Democrat U.S. Senate nominee, where his former campaign manager accused him of making “several” unwanted advances toward women, including herself.
On Monday, Mike Franken — who is 64, married, and has two children — was accused by his former campaign manager, Kimberley Strope-Boggus, in an unearthed police report, of “grabb[ing] the collar of the vest she was wearing and kissed her on her mouth” before she could “pull away” when they met for drinks at a bar in March.
Strope-Boggus described Franken as “old school” and having “1950s interactions with women,” which was “something that he has done to several other women.”
After his first campaign event on Monday, following the bombshell report, he dismissed the former campaign manager’s allegations as “baseless,” saying it “didn’t happen.” Still, when asked if the two met, he stated they “had a glass of beer.”
On Tuesday, Michaela Sundermann, the campaign communications director for Franken’s opponent, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), released a statement saying the reports are “clearly disturbing” and “victims deserve a chance to be heard,” as this alleged victim is unable to be heard. Franken’s accuser had signed a nondisclosure agreement, which means she’s not allowed to make disparaging remarks against him.
These reports are clearly disturbing. Victims deserve a chance to be heard, and it’s wrong to pressure them to keep silent. Franken’s alleged victim should have an opportunity to be heard and to defend her good name. Any candidate for office accused of unwanted advances or inappropriate behavior owes voters a clear and honest explanation. So far, Mike Franken has only issued blanket denials—effectively calling his own former campaign manager a liar—but he’s yet to address the specific charges in the police report. He has misleadingly said the report was ‘unfounded,’ but he knows that doesn’t mean the incident didn’t occur. This legal classification only speaks to the level of evidence needed for the Des Moines Police Department to investigate a crime. Because his alleged victim is under a nondisclosure agreement, according to the police report, Iowans are only hearing one side of the story. Iowans deserve to know the full story, including why he and his lawyers allegedly attempted to silence the victim and her spouse. If the allegations are false, as Mike Franken claims, then there is no reason to prevent his staff from speaking freely so Iowans can determine for themselves what is credible. Hiding behind nondisclosure agreements and blanket denials is unacceptable for a candidate seeking to earn the public trust.
The press release from Grassley’s campaign also touted a bill Grassley cosponsored, Speak Out Act, that the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced last week. The bill guarantees that survivors of sexual assault or harassment can’t be barred from discussing their experiences because of a previously-signed nondisclosure agreement.
Additionally, the Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann, during a press call with reporters on Tuesday, also pointed to the bill that Grassley helped get through the Senate Judiciary Committee while also mentioning that his committee is making the “strongest plea” to Franken to release the victim from the NDA and give her a chance to speak out.
Kaufmann further explained that his committee is “not calling on this victim to speak out” because that is “entirely her business” but that the “Republican Party is saying is that Franken must release the victim from the nondisclosure agreement.” Kaufmann accused Franken of hiding behind the NDA and “using it as a weapon” because he has been calling his accuser a lair while he is still silencing her under the NDA. “There is something inherently wrong about that,” Kaufmann added.
I’ve been in this situation of being asked what I think about a particular Republican that has made statements like he has made and that has been accused, and I have stood up, and I have answered those. The Democratic Party is not doing that. My candidates, my officeholders have been asked repeatedly over and over and over again a question similar to what I’m suggesting. I am not complaining. I’m just saying let’s wear the shoe on both feet in this particular case… Let’s not allow him to call somebody a liar and then silence that particular person. There is something inherently unfair about that, and that’s why I’m calling on all the Democratic officeholders in the same way that they would be calling on Republican officeholders for Franken to lift that NDA. And … if this victim if she chooses to respond to her being called a liar.
Furthermore, on Monday, Franken was supposed to be joined by two other Democrats, Liz Mathis and Christina Bohannan. When they did not show up, Franken’s campaign cited “scheduling conflict,” which Mathis’s campaign later tried to confirm in a statement saying she had “another engagement” that “bumped” Franken.
Shortly after Mathis released the statement, Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-IA), who’s running against Mathis in the Second Congressional District, quickly denounced Franken and encouraged the Democrat to do the same instead of conveniently using a “scheduling conflict” not to be seen publicly with the Senate hopeful.
“Sexual assault is always unacceptable, and the allegations against Admiral Mike Franken are deeply troubling,” Hinson said. “A ‘scheduling conflict’ is no substitute for denouncing sexual assault allegations, and State Senator Liz Mathis must disavow Mike Franken immediately.”