I guess in the end it doesn’t matter much how Al Franken loses this election, but a broadside from two key members of the Minnesota DFL’s Congressional delegation reflects a strange set of priorities. Betty McCollum and Keith Ellison attacked Franken not for his serial tax evasions or his failure to provide workers-comp insurance to his employees, but for a sexually graphic and sophomoric piece of fiction Franken wrote for Playboy eight years ago. Apparently for the DFL, breaking the law doesn’t rise to the level of outrage, but idiotic fantasy is a disqualification:

Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum said that a Playboy column written by Senate candidate Al Franken eight years ago was offensive and presents a serious political problem for Democratic candidates this year.

McCollum, who had supported Franken rival Mike Ciresi until he dropped out of the race, told The Associated Press on Thursday that she was worried that Minnesota Democratic congressional candidates will be running with a candidate “who has pornographic writings that are indefensible.”

“Do they spend all of their time defending him, or do they spend their time talking about issues that are important to this election?” she asked. “The whole story was a shocking surprise.”

Two other Minnesota Democratic lawmakers, Keith Ellison and Tim Walz, also expressed concerns Thursday about the 2000 sexually explicit satirical column, which Republicans began circulating last week. But Franken campaign spokesman Andy Barr made no apologies.

“Al understands, and the people of Minnesota understand, the difference between what a satirist does and what a senator does,” he said.

Michael Brodkorb at MDE has excerpts of Franken’s venture in Playboy; needless to say, it’s not safe for work. As satire, it’s not terribly remarkable, except to belittle the fantasy letters Playboy’s own subscribers might write. He uses graphic language and treats women as objects, which is to say that it fits in with the rest of the magazine and the Hefner oeuvre. The two most objectionable passages talk about his 12-year-old son using the Internet to write a report about bestiality and some references to oral sex, the latter of which has McCollum particularly incensed.

Franken tries to defend this as satire and as such off limits for criticism. I won’t go that far — satire can be just as offensive as the issues it satirizes, and this gets pretty tasteless. Minnesota Republicans will undoubtedly use this in the general election if Franken gets the DFL endorsement and wins the primary, which in this state are two different steps.

But let’s be clear about what this outrage from McCollum and Ellison demonstrates. Al Franken violated tax laws in seventeen states, either through incompetence or malice, for several years. He has avoided enforcement of workers-comp laws in New York that are intended to protect his employees, and has been dishonest about the circumstances that supposedly left him ignorant of the problem. The DFL doesn’t have a problem nominating someone to run for the US Senate with this track record of dishonesty, incompetency, and lawbreaking — but they balk at nominating someone who wrote a piece of silly sexual fiction?