It’s been nearly a year since former Minnesota Sen. Al Franken resigned after he was accused of sexual harassment by eight women. But some of the worst, most influential people in the Democratic Party are still grasping at who’s really to blame for Franken’s fall from grace: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.
Gillibrand, a possible 2020 hopeful who’s led the fight to eradicate sexual harassment from the government and the military for years, was the first Democrat to call for Franken to step down last December. Having lost the support of several colleagues in his own party, Franken resigned the following day. Ever since, Franken fans among the Democratic donor base won’t shut the fuck up about how Gillibrand is somehow bad for this specific reason.
First, Republican bogeyman and billionaire George Soros accused Gillibrand of calling for Franken’s ouster to “improve her chances” in a presidential run, calling Franken “someone I admire” and saying he’ll never support the New York senator. Then, HuffPost ran a piece in August where a bunch of top Democratic donors complained not only about Gillibrand’s role in helping to remove a man accused of serial sexual harassment from the Senate, but for also (rightly) saying that former President Bill Clinton should have resigned after his affair with then-22-year-old intern Monica Lewinsky.
With the midterm election out of the way now and attention already starting to turn to 2020, Politico has another piece out today where Democratic donors rip on Gillibrand for applying her opposition to sexual harassment to members of her own party. The story begins, as it so often does, at the house of a couple of donors (emphasis mine):
Just a month after Al Franken formally resigned from the Senate amid sexual misconduct allegations, the former senator met with an intimate group of Bay Area supporters at the home of major Democratic Party financiers Mary and Steve Swig.
As Franken and his wife, Franni Bryson, made the rounds, thanking supporters in the philanthropists’ San Francisco home at the February 2018 event, the conversation broke off into another subject: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. The New York Democrat had, in their opinion, pulled the rug out from under Franken, a senator beloved by the group, forcing him out without any real vetting of the allegations facing him.
“It was said not in front of Al to impress him; it was said privately in a corner. A group of us were standing there talking about it. He was one of our best weapons against this administration, his presence on these committees. [Gillibrand] did the damage that Republicans could not do themselves,” one of the attendees told POLITICO. “There were other people at this event who were saying the same thing. They said, ‘Absolutely, I will never do anything for her.’”
Just look at this shit:
Among those donors is Susie Tompkins Buell, a prominent Democratic fundraiser and cofounder of Esprit and the North Face clothing brands, who said the matter remains fresh in her mind and among those in her circles. The episode, she said, “stained [Gillibrand’s] reputation as a fair player.”
“I do hear people refer to Kirsten Gillibrand as ‘opportunistic’ and shrewd at the expense of others to advance herself and it seems to have been demonstrated in her rapid treatment of her colleague Al Franken,” she said. “I heard her referred to as ‘she would eat her own’ and she seems to have demonstrated that. I know [Gillibrand] thought she was doing the right thing but I think she will be remembered by this rush to judgment. I have heard some of her women colleagues regret joining her.”
Gillibrand coming out against one of her own Democratic colleagues rather than only finding the courage to speak out when the alleged abuser is a Republican is the very definition of “fair play.” Apropos of nothing, Tompkins Buell once gave civil rights attorney Lisa Bloom half a million dollars to reportedly help convince several women accusing Donald Trump of sexual misconduct to come forward, which ultimately didn’t happen.
To be fair to Tompkins Buell, at least she had the courage to go on the record, unlike a few brave souls who were (somewhat bewilderingly) granted anonymity in order to shit on Gillibrand with abandon:
“I could stay on the phone all afternoon talking about this,” said a Manhattan-based member of the ‘Majority Trust’ of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, an elite group of top donors, who has donated to Gillibrand in the past. “Let me tell you how strongly I felt about it — I didn’t even vote for her in the recent election. I left it blank.”
Another major Manhattan-based donor said the episode raised suspicions that it was a craven political move by Gillibrand.
“I thought she was duplicitous,” the donor said. “Once the whole thing happened with Al Franken, it was confirmed 1 billion percent that she’s not to be trusted. I think that she hurt the Democratic Party. I think that she hurt the Senate. I think that what she did for women in politics was dreadful.”
Fuck all of these people!
“Leadership means standing up for your values when it’s hard. Kirsten has never been afraid to stand up for what she believes in and never will be,” a Gillibrand spokesperson told Politico. “You can disagree with her views, but holding her accountable for someone else’s behavior towards women is wrong, and her values aren’t for sale.”
There are various reasons to be wary of Gillibrand, both as a potential presidential candidate and a leader of the Democratic opposition to Trump. For example, her marked turn from self-described conservative Blue Dog Democratic congresswoman to liberal firebrand after she was elected to represent the more liberal constituency of New York state would seem to bode poorly for her sticking to her guns on issues like immigration if she wins the White House. She also once said the global financial meltdown might not have happened if we had “Lehman Sisters” instead of Lehman Brothers, which has to be about the most Lean In shit that’s ever been said out loud in front of other people.
Calling for Al Franken’s resignation, however, is not among the reasons to think Gillibrand might not be the right person for the job. In fact, if she’s pissing off these absolute fucking ghouls—whose support she’d probably only have anyway if she promised to shut down any kind of left economic agenda in the Democratic Party—she’s gotta be doing something right.