WASHINGTON – Al Franken is asking academics to help him with policy issues as he gears up for a possible Senate campaign against Republican Norm Coleman, R-Minn.
Last week, Professor Sally Kenney, who directs the Center on Women and Public Policy at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, e-mailed faculty and staff to say Franken "has asked me to put together a Minnesota team Franken."
"We would offer some substantive policy expertise, some knowledge of who does what where at the U and in local non-profits, and most importantly, the ability to find out quickly through research things we do not know," she wrote.
"I think it will be loads of fun and a great learning experience for those interested in honing their public policy skills and learning more about political campaigns."
Kenney did not return telephone messages Monday.
Andy Barr, the political director of Franken's Midwest Values PAC, speaking on Franken's behalf, said the outreach was informal.
Barr said that Kenney met Franken, a Democrat, and offered to help out.
"He said one way she could help would be if she knew some folks who'd be interested in helping him out when he had questions about public policy," he said.
"I don't think there was any effort to create a formal organization that would help a campaign or anything like that."
While on a public policy fellowship at Harvard University, Franken formed a study group of students to help him research issues for his book, "Lies, and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right."
Kenney's e-mail was posted Monday by a Republican blogger, Michael Brodkorb, who called it an abuse of taxpayer resources. Larry Jacobs, director of the Institute's Center for the Study of Politics and Governance, said he told Brodkorb it was "regretful" that Kenney used a university resource for political work.
Jacobs said he'd been reassured by Kenney that she would keep her political and university work separate.