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GOP calls for Democrat Mike Franken to release accuser from NDA

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GOP calls for Democrat Mike Franken to release accuser from NDA

Sep 20, 2022 | 7:12 pm ET
By Robin Opsahl
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GOP calls for Democrat Mike Franken to release accuser from NDA
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Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mike Franken discusses abortion rights and his campaign June 24, 2022, on "Iowa Press," (Screen shot from Iowa PBS)

Iowa Republicans on Tuesday called on Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Michael Franken to release from a non-disparagement agreement a former staffer who has accused him of sexual improprieties.

Kimberley Strope-Boggus, who worked on Franken’s 2020 and 2022 U.S. Senate campaigns, filed a report in April with the Des Moines Police Department alleging Franken had kissed her on the mouth without her permission.

“You cannot explain this away with ‘unfounded,’ you cannot explain this away as partisan attacks,” Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann said at a news conference on the incident Tuesday.

According to the police report, released Monday by the conservative outlet Iowa Field Report, the incident allegedly occurred March 18, about a month after Strope-Boggus and another staffer were fired. Franken, 64, allegedly met with Strope-Boggus to discuss the possibility of her returning to the campaign.

Strope-Boggus told police Franken grabbed the collar of the vest she was wearing and kissed her on the mouth after the two had drinks. Strope-Boggus’ wife encouraged her to report the incident to police, who later found there was “insufficient information and evidence” to pursue a criminal case, according to the report. No charges were filed.

Franken told reporters Monday that he had a glass of beer the night of the alleged incident, but that the accusations against him were “baseless.”

Franken, who is running against U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, a Republican who has held office for four decades, said the GOP was bringing up the incident as an attack in the lead-up to the midterm elections.

“I’m surprised that they would come after a person like myself,” he said, according to the Des Moines Register. “But that’s fine, you know. That’s expected, I guess. And you know, I’m not at all surprised in many respects.”

Kaufmann said Republicans had not “drummed up” this situation and he called for Franken to allow Strope-Boggus to speak about the incident. According to the police report, she had signed a separation agreement with a non-disparagement clause when she left the campaign.

“While he is free to call the victim a liar—he has a First Amendment right to that—he’s forcing her into silence,” Kaufmann said. “He’s calling the victim, the accuser, a liar, and she is unable to respond. There’s something inherently wrong about that.”

Political campaigns often impose non-disclosure agreements on departing staff members to prevent them from sharing campaign and political information. Typically, NDAs only cover information and incidents directly related to the person’s work and might not apply to incidents that take place after an individual has left the campaign’s employment.

Strope-Boggus has not responded to reporters’ requests for comment.

In addition to asking Franken to release the former staffer from the agreement, Kaufmann said Democratic officials and candidates must respond to the accusations. Democratic congressional candidates Liz Mathis and Christina Bohannan did not attend a Monday event they were scheduled to speak at with Franken. The Franken campaign attributed their absence to scheduling conflicts.

Mathis released a statement Monday reaffirming her “zero-tolerance stance” on sexual harassment.

“Although it is my understanding investigators found that no criminal act occurred and the case was closed after being deemed unfounded by police, it is an important reminder that workplaces and law enforcement should encourage women to feel comfortable coming forward with any allegations of inappropriate conduct,” she said in a statement.

Franken’s campaign criticized Grassley and Republicans for continuing to focus on the accusations after the incumbent Republican told Radio Iowa Tuesday that the incident was “not a campaign issue I’m going to follow up on.”

“Chuck Grassley said on the record this morning this is ‘not a campaign issue’—‚but hours later, his staff is issuing lengthy press releases and continuing to push false allegations that were already determined to be ‘unfounded,'” Franken’s campaign manager, Julie Stauch, said in a statement. “Who exactly is in charge over at Team Grassley?”