Al Franken, others show support at DFL fundraiser

Tyler Rushmeyer

The dimly lit Kitty Cat Klub filled with a mostly late-20s audience Thursday night to take in Minneapolis’ first Progressive Reading Series. The series featured author and radio talk show host Al Franken, a Minnesota native.

The Literary Political Action Committee series, which travels the nation supporting liberal candidates, came to Minneapolis in support of Coleen Rowley, the Democratic candidate running for U.S. Congress in Minnesota’s 2nd Congressional District against Republican incumbent John Kline.

Franken, who read from his book “The Truth (with jokes),” took the stage and read a chapter titled “Oct. 2, 2015.” He highlighted the events that occurred during the “dark ages,” from 2000 to 2008 during the Bush administration and how Democrats began to fight back.

Franken also hinted at a possible 2008 Senate run when he mentioned in his chapter from the future that he “announced” his decision in 2007.

LitPAC Executive Director Stephen Elliot, “Ticknor” author Sheila Heti and poet Ed Bok Lee, author of “Real Karaoke People,” also read throughout the evening.

All authors donated their time and books to help with the fundraiser, Elliot said.

The idea behind LitPAC – holding readings to raise money for candidates – began in 2004 in San Francisco, he said.

LitPAC’s Progressive Reading Series sponsors events across the country and is supporting seven liberal candidates for House seats, Elliot said. The goal is to get authors more involved in the political process and create change in Congress in midterm elections.

To receive money raised by LitPAC, candidates such as Rowley have to meet their value statement, he said. This includes being pro-choice, speaking honestly and being anti-war. As far as supporting incumbents, the candidates must not have voted to go to war with Iraq, he said.

The group also considers whether candidates have a reasonable chance of victory and whom they are running against, he said.

“We look for opponents that are especially corrupt and dishonest and then we do our best to contribute to our candidates,” Elliot said. “The money we raise for candidates, usually around $3,000, is not a huge amount, but anything helps.”

Rowley, who heard of LitPAC through her sister-in-law, said she consistently has looked for campaign support from groups she would not feel corrupted by.

Rowley already is familiar with Franken’s fundraising abilities, as he has donated $10,000 to her campaign through his Midwest Values political action committee, she said.

“It is really hard to raise the funds necessary for a campaign, so I always keep my eyes open for opportunities,” she said.

Rowley, who took the stage midway through the event, said Kline has the worst voting record in the state on environment, education, disabled veterans and working family issues, which she specifically selected for their nonpartisan nature.

“The 2nd District is Republican-leaning,” she said. “But these issues are all things that any person should find important and Kline has done nothing to support them.”

Marcus Esmay, spokesman for the Kline campaign, described Rowley’s campaign as a “smear” against Kline’s record.

“Congressman Kline is a 25-year Marine Corps veteran who served in Vietnam, was Military Aide to both Presidents Carter and Reagan and received Four Legions of Merit,” Esmay said via e-mail. “John Kline doesn’t need to talk about having integrity and ethics, he has lived it.”

Stephen Burt, associate professor of English at Macalester College, said he was very happy to be involved with LitPAC for the first time.

Burt, who has campaigned for DFL candidates, said he believes the best strategy to regain the House and Senate for Democrats is to support all candidates in some fashion, not just mainstream candidates who have the best chance of winning.

He called it the ” ’50-state’ or ‘contest everything’ strategy.”

Burt said he thinks Rowley, who he said blew the whistle on pre-9/11 lapses in dealing with al-Qaida during her time with the FBI, is a perfect candidate to draw attention to the liberal cause.

“The name recognition that Coleen brings to the table is invaluable,” Burt said. “She highlights the Republicans’ complete failure to protect the country.”