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Kirsten Gillibrand slams donors who blame her for Al Franken’s ouster

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kirsten gillibrand
New
York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand speaks at a press conference on
Capitol Hill.

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  • A host of top Democratic donors say they won’t donate to or
    raise funds for
    Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s potential 2020 bid
    after she
    pushed to oust fellow Democratic Sen. Al Franken last year amid
    sexual misconduct charges. 
  • Gillibrand hit back on Monday, suggesting that her critics
    would rather silence the voices of women who spoke out against
    Franken than hold him to fair standards.
  • But some of Gillibrand’s supporters worry the criticism from
    powerful donors will scare off other Democrats and undermine the
    senator’s higher ambitions. 

When Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand led the charge in pressuring former
Sen. Al Franken, the Minnesota Democrat, to resign last year amid
mounting allegations of sexual misconduct, many hailed the move
as both moral leadership and smart politics. 

As a majority of Democratic senators followed her call,
Gillibrand’s cemented her status as an unapologetic defender of
women’s rights and boosted her credentials on the progressive
left. 

But nearly a year later, many Democrats — including some of the
party’s wealthiest donors — remain convinced that Franken’s
ouster was unjust — and more than a dozen party
patrons told
Politico on Monday
that that they blame Gillibrand and, as a
result, will never donate to or raise funds for
her potential 2020 bid
.

Gillibrand fought back against the
criticism on Monday, reasserting her argument that the women who
accused Franken of groping, forcible kissing, and other alleged
wrongdoing deserve to be believed. 

“Silencing women for the powerful,
or for your friends, or for convenience, is neither acceptable,
nor just,” she wrote

The senator’s fans insist she made
the right move, but it remains to be seen whether she’ll survive
the political blowback.


Democratic Sens. Al Franken and Kirsten Gillibrand
Democratic
Sens. Al Franken and Kirsten Gillibrand

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

‘We love blaming
women’ 

Many of Gillibrand’s allies see
the attacks on her — and the eight women who made allegations
against Franken — as gendered. 

“We love blaming women,” said one
progressive Democratic donor, who asked for anonymity to protect
relationships with other Democrats, told
INSIDER.  

Shuan King, a writer and civil rights activist, called the
criticism “dumb and sexist.” 

While critics say her advocacy for the victims was largely
strategic, her supporters say there can be no equivocating on an
issue like sexual misconduct. 

“What KG is being maligned for is believing women,” Ilyse
Hogue, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, tweeted
Monday. “We have nothing that resembles due process for these
claims and we saw with Kavanaugh that survivors coming forward
incur serious consequences. KG has always shown that survivors
have somewhere to turn.” 

Gillibrand’s spokesperson, Glen Caplin, also issued a
defense of the decision, arguing that morality should always take
precedent over political expediency. 

“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. 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,” Caplin said in

a statement
to Politico.

The progressive donor argued that the criticism of
Gillibrand isn’t coming from any of her longtime supporters, but
rather from those, like billionaire philanthropist
George Soros
, who supported Franken and never had skin in the
game for Gillibrand. 

“This very aggressive posturing
is trying to scare off support and trying to convince her not
run,” he said. “It’s not reflecting a deeply-held position other
than hard-nosed politics.”

‘His voice is missed’ 

While Gillibrand remains broadly popular among Democrats (she was
re-elected this year with 66% of the vote — and received
nearly 400,000 more votes than New York Gov. Andrew
Cuomo), it’s clear that many in the party hold a grudge against
her over Franken.  

The former “Saturday Night Live”
star remains beloved among many on the left. 

“His voice is missed, people
liked him,” the progressive donor said. “I think a lot of good,
solid progressives … liked Al Franken and all they remember is
Kirsten Gillibrand pushed him out and it wasn’t even that
bad.”

Mitch Draizin, a New York
hedge fund founder and Democratic donor, doesn’t think Franken
deserved to be pushed out, but added that he wouldn’t base his
support for Gillibrand on that single decision — and would back
her in 2020 if she’s the strongest contender. 

“Perhaps she had no other choice
given the women’s movement,” Draizin told INSIDER. “I think
she could have gotten caught up in the moment — you don’t know
what counter-veiling forces were there.” 

It’s likely too early to know
whether the ongoing backlash against Gillibrand
will undermine her 2020 chances. And some argue a strong
grassroots campaign could overcome resistance from a few powerful
voices. 

“I would hope that the voters
would decide and not the donors,” Jeff Gural, a New
York real estate developer and Democratic donor, told
INSIDER
. “I don’t think raising the most money is the most
important thing anymore.”

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