Fact Checker: Grassley ads attack Franken for wanting to penalize non-voters

Mike Franken, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate from Iowa, speaks September 2 during a campaign stop at Tic Toc, 600 17th St. NE, in Cedar Rapids. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)


Early voting is already well underway, but the blows are getting sharper between Republican U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley and Democratic challenger Mike Franken as the race draws closer to Election Day on Nov. 8.

A recent ad attacking Franken with claims about health care, abortion and supporting the hiring of thousands of IRS agents included a claim that stands out as something voters don’t hear about. in advertisements each election cycle.

“Mike Franken loves big government…” begins the announcement from Grassley’s team, before going into several claims about the responsibilities they say Franken would like government to take on such as:

“Mike Franken wants the government… to pay for political campaigns and then fine you if you don’t vote.”


The fine print in the ad for this claim cites a May 9 Franken campaign appearance at the Iowa Veterans Station in Waverly. To back up their claim, Grassley’s team forwarded recordings of Franken speaking at in-person events in Waverly, Chariton and West Des Moines between February and May, ahead of the June primary.

The first in West Des Moines records Franken as saying on Feb. 2, “I’m happy to do federally or state-funded errands. I absolutely agree with that.

This seems to imply that Franken is talking about political campaign finance, since the mechanical functions of elections—the parts that involve voters voting—are already funded by states.

West Des Moines extended audio clip (quote at 39 seconds)

In an extended recording that provides more context before the quote, Franken spoke about changing the way candidates for public office run campaigns in order to “take all the money out” of the typical equation that involves funding sources. or private donors. He then offers ideas for changing the lengths of congressional and presidential terms and enacting term limits — the latter supported by Grassley.

The issue of election financing has been a concern for Democratic voters since 2010, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United v FEC that the First Amendment prohibits the government from limiting independent spending that a company can. do to a political action committee. — the birth of “Super PACs” which have become major players in campaign financing.

For this part of the claim, Grassley’s announcement is accurate.

The final part of the claim involves two audio recordings of Franken speaking at pre-primary campaign events in May. The audio recordings were produced by a combination of sources, including Grassley supporters present at the events as well as other public sources, Grassley staff said.

The first, May 9 in Waverly, details some of Franken’s ideas for enacting term limits and changing the lengths of terms for presidents and members of Congress, as well as making elections more accessible by making Election Day a weekend. -end or by making it a national holiday.

Extended Waverly audio clip (quote at 2 minutes 13 seconds)

“If you don’t vote, (you’ll be charged) $15 on your tax bill – something like that,” he said. “Something like that (which) just takes a little time.”

At a May 25 rally in Chariton, he reiterated the ideas of term lengths and limits, as well as penalties for those who do not vote.

Chariton extended audio clip (quote at 2 mins 33 secs)

“Let’s put our election day on a Sunday, make it a national holiday and make it a game,” he said. “And if you don’t vote, we’ll take $25 off your income tax (statement). Damn, vote. Other countries are doing it – it’s not a crazy idea.

Since winning the Democratic primary, it’s unclear if Franken has publicly expressed a position on sanctions or voter incentives. The post does not appear on his campaign website.

“Admiral Michael Franken supports giving every citizen who votes – no matter who they vote for – a $15 tax credit to encourage people to participate in our democracy,” the director said. Franken Communications, CJ Petersen.

Petersen told The Gazette that after listening to Iowans’ comments over the past few months since the May meetings, Franken has moved on the issue to support a carrot instead of a stick for voters.

“He came to the position of an incentive…rather than something that people will see as a penalty,” he explained.

While Franken may have moved on on the issue and now takes a different stance on voting incentives and penalties, the claims made in the two May audio recordings were authentic and represented his views at the time.

Note: The grade for this claim in the Grassley campaign is an A.


The Fact Checker team verifies statements made by an Iowa political candidate or office holder or national candidate/office holder about Iowa, or in advocacy advertisements that appear in our marketplace.

Claims must be independently verifiable.

We assign statements grades from A to F based on accuracy and context.

If you spot a claim that you think needs checking, email us at [email protected]

The members of the Fact Checker team are Elijah Decious, Erin Jordan and Marissa Payne. This fact checker was researched and written by Elijah Decious.

Virginia C. Taylor