Republican Sen. Norm Coleman joined state DFL leaders in condemning a GOP campaign mailer that looks like a comic book for kids but instead upbraids DFL Senate candidate Al Franken for writing "a pornographic column in Playboy" and "so-called comedy routines about raping women."
In an e-mail sent late Sunday, Coleman urged Nevada Sen. John Ensign, who heads the GOP committee responsible for the mailer, to see to it that remaining copies not yet mailed are destroyed. Coleman's campaign had no role in creating or mailing the ad, which does not mention him.
However, State Auditor Rebecca Otto, a DFLer, said Monday that Coleman also should issue an apology on behalf of the party and end his own reported efforts to become chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), which paid for the mailer.
"It is the most offensive and indefensible piece of political material I have seen, and it appears to be aimed directly at children. ... I don't want my child exposed to this type of tactic," said Otto, who was joined at a State Capitol news conference by former Vice President Walter Mondale, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison and Edina mother Marcela Roos.
"Many of us are concerned that a candidate might say 'Oh, I don't approve of this kind of thing' and not too strenuously oppose it, hoping that it continues while they get the benefit of looking like they're not for it," Ellison said.
"We should be using this time that's left to talk about ... issues, not to dump trash on the doorsteps of the families of Minnesotans," Mondale said. He said he suspected the piece was sent out because Coleman "wants to change the subject" from his record.
The cover of the mailer shows a cartoonish Franken opening a door and saying, "Come on in kids ... Senator Franken's going to tell a few jokes ..."
Inside, cartoons of kids saying such things as "We shouldn't have to be ashamed of Minnesota's senator" and "We shouldn't have to wonder what he will say" are interspersed with snippets saying that Franken "tackled a protester at a political rally," wrote a story for Playboy and comedy about rape.
The last page shows a cartoon Franken in a suit and beanie sticking out his tongue, alongside the words: "Al Franken -- A bad example for our kids -- Completely unfit for public office." Each of the statements in the mailer is attributed to news stories, but Otto declined to say whether she was disputing their truthfulness.
In his e-mail, which was released Monday by his campaign, Coleman wrote Ensign that the ad was "just not acceptable. I'm astonished that anyone would have used such poor judgment. ... It is my hope that ... if anymore remains to be mailed, that it be collected and destroyed."
Roos said that she was appalled that one of her 10-year-old boys had found the piece in the mail. "I was outraged that something this offensive was sent into my home," said Roos, who notified the Franken campaign after receiving it Friday.
After the news conference, Coleman campaign manager Cullen Sheehan reiterated that the senator found the mailer "deplorable" and that he had done everything possible under the law to have it pulled. Federal law prohibits collaboration between campaign and party committees.
Kevin Duchschere • 612-673-4455