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

Cedar Rapids Gazette Fact Checker Team

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

A recent ad attacking Franken containing claims about health care, abortion and support for hiring thousands of IRS agents included one claim that stands out as something voters don’t hear about in ads every election cycle.

“Mike Franken loves big government …” the ad from Grassley’s team starts, before going into several claims of which responsibilities they say Franken would like the government to assume like: “Mike Franken wants government … to pay for political campaigns, then fine you if you don’t vote.”

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

In an extended recording that provides more context leading up to the quote, Franken talked about changing the manner in which candidates for public office run campaigns in order to “take all the money out” of the typical equation that involves private funding sources or donors.

For this portion of the claim, Grassley’s ad is accurate.

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

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

At a May 25 gathering in Chariton, he reiterated the ideas for term lengths and limits, as well as penalties for those who don’t vote.

“Let’s put our Election Day on a Sunday, make it a national holiday and make a game out of it,” he said. “And if you don’t vote, we’ll take 25 bucks out of your income tax (return). Damn it, vote. Other countries do it — it’s not a wild idea.”

Though Franken may have evolved on the issue and takes a different position now on voting incentives and penalties, the claims made in the two May audio recordings were authentic and represented his view at that time.

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