The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

07 February 2006

Franken Takes On Interviewer, Lacks Facts


No Wonder Fluff Media Doesn't Challenge Him

Remember push polls?

Emerging just before elections, they pretend to desire the opinions of voters. Then, to those foolish enough to remain on the telephone, they proceed to shove political propaganda right down unsuspecting throats.

In a variation, Al Franken has introduced the art of "push interviews", where in theory he's there to be asked questions. Pity the reporter, though, who believes it's anything other than Al's latest manipulation: an overbearing effort to persuade the other party his very line of inquiry is wrong.

If Franken had his facts straight, that would one thing. Without the full team of overpaid (hello Billy Kimball) "researchers" at his side, however, an interview merely becomes a sad, failed attempt at Hugo Chavezian-machismo.

Even if he too didn't have all of the details in front of him, at least someone is willing to ask Alan Franken, Inc. tough questions. Luckily, upon further review, the interviewer did have evidence to back them up.

Unfortuately for
print journalism, it wasn't a daily newspaper reporter. Instead, Macalester College's Mac Weekly Managing Editor Matt Stone took on the nasty bear and won:

Mac Weekly: I know your speech was about civil liberties and how the Bush administration is endangering our civil liberties. Would you say that is the most important political issue facing Americans today? Can you point to one?

Al Franken: I think that there are so many that are so important. Health care; the widening gap between the haves and have-nots; the government operating on behalf of special interests, not the public interest, and all that impacts everything. It impacts health care, impacts education, impacts environmental concerns, impacts energy policy. That's why I'm so disappointed that Democrats aren't using this Abramoff scandal to talk about ways to get money out of politics.

MW: About that, why would they if so many Democrats are connected to Abramoff?

AF: They aren't. Why do you assume that? Why do you say that?

MW: Because [Sen.] Byron Dorgan from North Dakota was found to have connections with the Indian tribes and he was advocating on their behalf with Abramoff.

AF: Yeah, but they live in North Dakota.

STOP right there! Al is trying to assert that inappropriate contributions are okay, as long as they're from in-state sources? Read on and take note of Franken's arrogance:

MW: It was an Indian tribe from Massachusetts.

AF: An Indian tribe from Massachusetts gave to Dorgan?

MW: Abramoff has been found to be pretty tightly connected with an Indian tribe from Massachusetts.

AF: Did the Indian tribe from Massachusetts give to Dorgan?

MW: Yeah. I believe…

AF: It's either a yes or a no. I'm asking you and you don't seem to be giving me an answer.

MW: I believe they had been connected.

AF: Well connected doesn't mean anything. Tell me if the Indian tribe from Massachusetts gave Dorgan money.

MW: I'm not certain. [The Mac Weekly later sent an article to Franken detailing Dorgan's connection. See the editor's note below.]

AF: See there's a lot of confusion here that's deliberately sewn by the Republicans, who say, `well, Democrats got money from Abramoff.' Democrats didn't get money from Abramoff. Abramoff did not give a single dime to a Democrat. There are several kinds of money here that we're talking about. And we should make a distinction what they are.

There's money that personally came from Abramoff. He's a Republican. Not one cent from him or his wife has gone to a Democrat, as far as I know. Then there's money that clients of his have given to members and then you can divide that into two different kinds of money.

One is bribes and there hasn't been a Democrat identified in any of this that falls under that category.

The other is clients who give money to a member because the member supports the cause. It makes a big difference. For example, [Sen.] Conrad Burns [R-Mont.] changed his vote on Saipan [a garment manufacturer accused of paying Chinese immigrant laborers under the federal minimum wage] after getting money from Abramoff's clients on [the US'] North Marianas Islands. Conrad Burns got a $3 million school for the Saginaw tribe in Michigan…after getting money from the man. But it's done nothing to help his own tribes in Montana.

What about the third kind, money funneled to Democrats via third parties? That's what interviewer Stone is getting at here, but Franken's playing games.

Here's where Alan gets nailed:

Franken: Then there are trips that are paid for through these various phony groups that are either, like, think tanks, phony think tanks or phony charities that pay for things like golf trips. Those, as far as I know, have only gone to Republicans.

MW: You know [Rep.] Michael Capuano [Democrat] of Massachusetts, a Congressman, recently got back from a privately funded trip to Brazil funded by what seems to be the sources you've been alluding to.

AF: And who paid for his trip?

MW: Well, it was interest groups that you've been alluding to.

AF: Can you tell me who? I'd like to know.

MW: I can look up the Boston Globe article. I believe it was a few weeks ago probably. Do you want me to e-mail that to you?

AF: Certainly. E-mail it to him. [Franken points to his assistant, who worked for Capuano. See the editor's note below.] Why would [members of Congress] vote for campaign finance reform? Not to spend so much time raising money.

No doubt the last thing Franken wanted to see was evidence of this actually turning up, but they did follow through and send it to him:

Editor's note: The Mac Weekly later sent Franken two newspaper articles.

One, published by the Associated Press in December, detailed Sen. Byron Dorgan's (D-N.D.) connections to the Mashpee Tribe of Massachusetts and its donation of $11,500 to Dorgan through its representative Michael D. Smith, Abramoff's partner who pleaded guilty this fall to charges of conspiring to bribe a congressional representative.

The article also revealed a fundraiser hosted for Dorgan by the Mississippi Choctaw Tribe in Abramoff's arena skybox where Washington power players were commonly wined and dined.

The other article, published in January by The Boston Globe, detailed a trip by Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.) to Brazil. The trip, worth $19,403, was funded by a non-profit business organization financed by the lobbyists and company representatives traveling with the congressman, the Globe reported.

Obviously, Stone's lesson learned is that it's best to have the articles with you during the interview. The quality of this piece is so much higher than the usual fawning Franken-fluff we've seen from coast to coast, however, the error can be overlooked.

One other nugget:

MW: One last thing that I know you probably get a lot. What are your plans for 2008?

AF: Well, I don't know. I've made no secret about fact I'm looking at the Senate, and I haven't decided yet. Part of me wants to do it, but there's a lot of questions that are going to have to get answered between now and when I make the decision. Is it more important to be doing the radio show? Would I be the best candidate? Those are sort of the two biggest questions.

No, Al, the biggest question is whether you'd be willing to give up your $3 million base salary that kicks in for 2008. The cat's out of the bag, it's time to be honest. (Note: This link may work better).

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Second, third images: Pete at IHillary for the Radio Equalizer


  • Fact: Neither Abramoff, his wife, or business partner Scanlon ever gave a dime to Democrats.

    Fact: None of the phoney Abramoff charities ever laundered a dime for Democrats.

    Fact: Indian tribes who Abramoff came to represent, began to give less money to Democrats after hiring him.

    A Prospect exclusive: A new analysis of Abramoff tribal money by a nonpartisan firm shows it’s a Republican scandal.

    Fact: This isn't about legal political contributions. It's about money laundering through bogus charities, fraud, and outright bribery. Bring legal political contributions is just a red herring that Brian would rather you focus on.

    By Blogger Dick Tuck, at 07 February, 2006 08:11  

  • First it was - Dems didn't get a dime from Abramoff.

    Then it was - well, they did get money but not the same way as Republicans.

    Now, it's - well, they did get money and the same way but it was less.

    Please. There are dirty hands aplenty on both sides (tho more Republicans in this instance). It just shows a touching naivete of how Congress works (or human nature in general) to insist that the Democrats are somehow incorruptible, innocent and immune to all greed.

    By Blogger inmypajamas, at 07 February, 2006 08:44  

  • i think its funny that you wrote an article about how atrocious it was that Al Franken asked for evidence. how dare he! he should be more like conservatives and just believe whatever anyone tells him and never bother to ask for evidence or proof or a supporting statement. the nerve of that Al Franken!

    By Blogger hardcore conservative genious, at 07 February, 2006 09:38  

  • Fact: Indian tribes who Abramoff came to represent, began to give less money to Democrats after hiring him.

    In other words...

    Fact: Democrats got money from Abramoff.

    By Blogger Arturo, at 07 February, 2006 09:44  

  • I just think it's amusing that Franken didn't know what anybody who reads the news does.

    Living in a bubble, are we?

    By Blogger TallDave, at 07 February, 2006 09:57  

  • "Fact: Democrats got money from Abramoff."

    Nope. Democrats never got a dime from Abramoff.

    By Blogger Dick Tuck, at 07 February, 2006 10:17  

  • These posters and politicians insisting Democrats never got a dime from Abramoff remind me of little kids ... "NO NO NO!"

    Stomp your feet and hold your breath, it doesn't work anymore.

    By Blogger Etain Peregrine, at 07 February, 2006 11:14  

  • Even if the claim that Dems got no money from Abramoff is true (I don't concede the point, but just for argument's sake) then that only raises the question of which lobbyists they are taking money from. I'm not taking sides here. I think they are both filthy dirty. Entire thing makes me sick. What's funny is people are acting so surprised as if we didn't know this kind of thing has been going on for years.

    By Blogger JAM, at 07 February, 2006 11:24  

  • If Abramoff was spreading money around (true enough) and if he isn't totally stupid (also true, more or less), then wouldn't we expect him to spread more money where it would do the most good? That means the party with the most votes and all the committee chairmanships - that's where he'd put the money. Recently that's been Republicans. Further in the past it would have been Democrats. Abramoff strikes me as an equal-opportunity briber; he'll get friendly with whoever happens to be in power at the moment.

    A logical tactic for the Democrats is to pretend it's solely a Republican problem, so that the Democrats are relieved of the pesky duty of cleaning up their own house. Whichever party actually manages to clean up its act will have a huge electoral advantage. The Republicans are at least making favorable noises - whether we'll see any real action is another question. The Democrats are pretending it's a Republican problem, and not a Democratic one as well. Not a promising approach, at all.

    By Blogger BigDirigible, at 07 February, 2006 11:47  

  • Fact: According to Alexia this blog is ranked at 287,579


    By Blogger pbrauer, at 07 February, 2006 12:46  

  • Technically correct since the evidence suggests that the Democrats in question took considerably more than *a* dime.

    Thanks for reminding us that the original Dick Tuck was a bit of a hoaxster. :p

    *snicker* ^~^

    By Blogger Towering Barbarian, at 07 February, 2006 13:02  

  • You guys are missing the point...Cash contributions are legal! Unless they've got more evidence than they're letting on to, nobody is going down in this "scandal" because you can't prove a direct cause and effect. In this regard, the Democrats are probably more at risk than the Republicans, because Abramoff wouldn't have had to spell out his expectations to Republicans, and consequently, it would be less likely that anything they said would get caught on tape. A senator changed his vote after receiving a what? Maybe he was going to change his vote anyway? Can you prove otherwise? If not, they remain two unrelated events. Likewise, why wouldn't a politician accept donations from people who agree with them ideologically? They don't influence his vote, they just support it.
    Don't sell Abramoff short, he wouldn't rat out a bunch of Republicans unless he knew he could take the Democrats down with him.

    By Blogger righteousjohnson, at 07 February, 2006 13:48  

  • Nope. Democrats never got a dime from Abramoff.

    You're right Dick.

    Dimes were too heavy, so the Dems got their money in fifties and hundreds.

    By Blogger eLarson, at 07 February, 2006 13:52  

  • Barbarian, take a closer look at the language in the link you posted. it says "Abramoff related sources" not "directly from Abramoff." the difference is that Abramoff is the one who is guilty, not the Indian casinos. as far as i know, the casinos have not been brought in front of the court. Abramoff was. you can't spin this to make it look like the democrats are in the wrong.

    you people are unbelievable. you get this hard evidence that republicans were corrupt and you try to spin it the other way around. at least we had the balls to admit it when clinton fucked up. why don't you guys grow a pair and just admit to it so we can all move on.

    By Blogger hardcore conservative genious, at 07 February, 2006 14:34  

  • hardcore,
    Much like the left went to the mattreses over Clinton and Mark Rich, Al Gore and the temple money, etc.
    There is corruption all over Washington.
    What I see most of the righty posters doing, is not saying the Repubs are all upstanding and justified. They are saying that the Dems are dirty too, and should stop pretending otherwise.

    Pointing out, as some have, that tribes already gave to Democrats before Abramoff was involved means what? That they already knew how to bribe the left, but they needed help with the right?

    By Blogger SCSIwuzzy, at 07 February, 2006 15:44  

  • I don't think anyone is claiming the Dems aren't dirty, they're just pointing out that, IN THIS INSTANCE, CONTRARY TO THE MEDIA SPIN, the Abramoff scandal is a purely Republican matter.

    This is part of why campaign finance reform is such a crucial issue: ALL candidates must raise millions for every campaign they run, and who is going to give them millions? Big money interests who expect payback for their contributions. Of course Dems will be influenced by such contributions to act on behalf of their special interests, as opposed to the public interest. However, again, IN THIS INSTANCE, as far as we know so far, there has been no involvement of Democrats in Abramoff's bribery schemes and quid pro quo.

    Further evidence may arise which changes this picture, but it is important, as Noam Chomsky points out, to pay attention to the facts. For example,Dictator A, from small country B, may have exterminated 100,000 of his countrymen. To claim he exterminated 500,000,for rhetorical purposes of highlighting his beastliness is a lie, and to insist the figure is only 100,000 does not mitigate his crimes, but is simply to insist on the primacy of fact in discussing his crimes. In the same way, in discussing the Abramoff scandal, it is important to discuss what is known SO FAR. The media, without evidence--in fact, contrary to available evidence, has been spinning this as a bipartisan scandal equally involving Dems and Repubs. This,based on what is known, is a lie, and serves the propaganda interests of the Republican party, and is an abrogation of the press's responsibility to inform the public, the better for the public to make decisions in their own behalf.

    By Blogger Mr. Unnatural, at 07 February, 2006 16:08  

  • The fact still is that neither Abramoff, his wife, or his business partner, Scanlon ever gave a dime to a Democrat. If you don't believe me, check out the FEC site and prove me wrong.

    By Blogger Dick Tuck, at 07 February, 2006 18:55  

  • Is Abramoff in trouble because of his PERSONAL contributions or the Indian Casino ones?

    By Blogger Red A, at 07 February, 2006 21:40  

  • Excuuuuuuuuse Meeeeeeee, but....

    I thought the REAL topic is that Al Franken is a fact-challenged lightweight who can't perform well without his handlers. This seems to have been well proven by his own performance in front of an amatuer journalist.

    Any of you donks want to dispute that?

    By Blogger trapeze, at 07 February, 2006 22:02  

  • Trapeeze,
    I think our Democratic friends have all implicitly conceded that one from the getgo or else they wouldn't be so desperate to change the subject to Abramoff! ^_~

    Does using flunkies to do it instead of doing it yourself somehow make it better? o_O

    By Blogger Towering Barbarian, at 08 February, 2006 02:05  

  • Abramoff Tribes Donated Funds to Lawmakers... one of whom was none other than Harry Reid:"Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid sent a letter to Norton on March 5, 2002, also signed by Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev. The next day, the Coushattas issued a $5,000 check to Reid's tax-exempt political group, the Searchlight Leadership Fund. A second Abramoff tribe sent another $5,000 to Reid's group. Reid ultimately received more than $66,000 in Abramoff-related donations between 2001 and 2004."

    By Blogger eLarson, at 08 February, 2006 14:49  

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