Whitehouse will give away $21,000 in Franken donations

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Democratic U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse said Thursday he will donate $21,000 in campaign contributions he’s received over the years from Al Franken’s political action committee following the Minnesota Democrat’s resignation over sexual-harassment allegations.

Franken announced he would resign around noon Thursday on the floor of the U.S. Senate, after he came under heavy pressure to step down from many of his Democratic colleagues, including Whitehouse and Rhode Island’s other Democratic senator, Jack Reed.

Meaghan McCabe, a spokeswoman for Whitehouse, said the $21,000 in donations he has received from Franken’s Midwest Values PAC will be donated to women’s organizations in Rhode Island. The specific groups that will receive the money have not been identified yet.

Republican Robert Flanders, who is challenging Whitehouse in the 2018 election, had earlier called on him to return the contributions. State Rep. Bobby Nardolillo, R-Coventry, is also seeking the GOP Senate nomination.

In a statement, Whitehouse thanked Franken for resigning and said his decision was part of “an important conversation right now about the equal treatment of women in every part of our society.”

“Now, Republicans must join Democrats in holding their own accountable,” he continued. “The American people should take notice of national Republicans’ support for a morally degraded Senate candidate in Alabama and a president in the Oval Office facing equally credible charges.”

Both Flanders and Nardolillo have said Roy Moore, the Senate candidate alluded to by Whitehouse, should drop out of the Dec. 12 special election there. Flanders said on WPRI 12’s Newsmakers last month that the allegations against President Trump should not be investigated because they were known to voters before last year’s election.

Reed, who is not up for re-election until 2020, received a $2,500 donation from Midwest Values PAC in 2014, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Reed’s office said he will donate that amount to the Rhode Island Community Food Bank.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook