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Major Democratic donor considers withdrawing support for senators who pushed Franken to resign

The sign of former Sen. Al Franken's office is seen on Capitol Hill December 7, 2017 in Washington, D.C. A major Democratic donor is considering withdrawing her support for senators who urged Franken to resign after he was accused of sexual harassment. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

A major Democratic donor is considering withdrawing her support for senators who urged their former colleague Al Franken to resign after he was accused of sexual harassment, the New York Times reported.

What happened?

Franken, a Minnesota Democrat, resigned from the Senate after he was accused of misconduct last year. His last day was Jan. 2.

Multiple women accused Franken last year of groping them without their consent. Radio host Leeann Tweeden, the first woman to publicly accuse Franken of misconduct, said the former comedian sexually harassed her while they were part of a 2006 USO tour. Tweeden also made public a picture of Franken appearing to grope her breasts while she slept.

In defiant remarks on the Senate floor last month, Franken said he was “shocked” and “upset” by the allegations against him.

“I am proud that during my time in the Senate I have used my power to be a champion of women,” he said. “And that I have earned a reputation as someone who respects the women I work alongside every day. I know there has been a very different picture of me painted over the last few weeks, but I know who I really am.”

Franken’s resignation followed calls from his Democratic colleagues to do so.

What did the donor say?

According to the Times, Susie Tompkins Buell “has been one of the Democratic Party’s most generous supporters for decades."

Buell wrote in text messages to the Times that some of the senators she has supported may have moved too fast in calling for Franken’s resignation. Their public calls for Franken’s resignation came several weeks after the allegations came to light.

Buell told the Times that withdrawing support from senators who called for Franken’s resignation is “an option” she is considering.

“In my gut, they moved too fast,” Buell said, adding that Franken “was never given his chance to tell his side of the story.”

Franken initially said that he would stay in the Senate and undergo an ethics investigation, but resigned amid calls from his colleagues to step down.

“For me, this is dangerous and wrong,” Buell added. “I am a big believer in helping more women into the political system but this has given me an opportunity to rethink of how I can best help my party.”

One of the senators Buell has previously supported — Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) — led her colleagues in calling for Franken’s resignation.

“As for Gillibrand, unfortunately, I believe she miscalculated and has shot herself in the foot,” Buell said. “I have supported her for many years. Will I going forward? To be determined.”

Any details on how she will alter her contributions?

In an interview with Buzzfeed, Buell declined to provide details about how she would alter her contributions.

"I'm just taking a look at where I put my energy and money," she said. "I won't be doing it to the degree I did before. I'm just too upset and discouraged by the way they did this."

Buell told Buzzfeed she has no "personal relationship" with Franken but noted that she did contribute at least $4,300 to his 2008 Senate campaign.

Gov. Mark Dayton (D) appointed Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith to replace Franken in the Senate. She was sworn in on Jan. 3.

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