Smearing Sen. Franken


This is some extremely shoddy journalism from Mickey Kaus. The Slate blogger asks if “ACORN chicanery” elected Sen. Al Franken, who won a razor-thin 2008 race for the U.S. Senate after eight months of legal challenges. Kaus links a “tactfully phrased Minneapolis Star Tribune story” to argue that fraudulent votes might have stolen the election for Franken.

ACORN claimed to have registered 48,000 new Minnesota voters. If just 1% were ineligible but cast ballots, or had ballots cast for them illegally, and survived the recount process … that’s 480 votes, almost certainly overwhelmingly cast for Franken.

Let’s look at this.

First, the story Kaus links to is actually a column by the conservative Katherine Kersten, whom the paper refers to as “a Twin Cities writer and speaker,” and who limns the column with attacks on the “liberal agenda.” Kersten has no proof that any illegitimate votes were cast, only that “Minnesota’s laws on proof of voter eligibility are notoriously loose.”

Second, “surviving the recount process” in Minnesota was more difficult than it sounds now. Ballots were counted once and recounted twice, and challenged ballots were counted in a hearing that was streamed live. Republicans had a lot of time, and a lot of incentive, to make the cause that thousands of ballots were illegitimate. They made their case. They narrowly lost.

Franken doesn’t have to face voters again until 2014, so the attempt to smear him here is just a way of draining the ACORN story for all it’s worth and casting illegitimacy on the Democrats’ Senate majority. It’s one thing for, say, Newsmax to engage in this; I am mystified as to why Kaus would do it. From arguing that the 2000 election was stolen from Al Gore by blocked recounts to arguing that ACORN maybe, kinda-sorta, might have registered an illegal voter in Minnesota. Strange.

Todd Herman, who runs new media at the RNC, heartily endorses the ACORN-Franken conspiracy.

UPDATE: Media Matters reports that, in addition to Slate, The Fox Nation and Gateway Pundit have picked up Kersten’s opinion piece to “baselessly cast doubt on Franken’s campaign victory.”

David Weigel is a politics reporter for the Washington Independent.