Just when it seemed that Minnesota’s U.S. Senate race couldn’t get any nastier, the contest took another dark turn today [November 1]. Sen. Norm Coleman released a new television ad accusing his Democratic opponent of orchestrating two lawsuits alleging that a longtime political patron funneled $75,000 that was intended to benefit the Senator to a Minneapolis insurance firm.
“This time Al Franken’s gone too far,” Coleman says in the commercial, his wife Laurie seated next to him. “My name’s on the ballot. I’m fair game for his ugly smears. My wife and family are not.”
Laurie Coleman is at the center of the two lawsuits filed in Texas and Delaware courts this week. They allege that Nasser Kazeminy funneled $75,000 through a Texas company that he owns to the Senator’s wife via a Minneapolis insurance firm where she works.
Franken immediately called a press conference to denounce and deny the allegation. “In this ad Sen. Norm Coleman looks the people of Minnesota in the eye and lies by blaming me for something that I had absolutely nothing to do with,” he said at DFL headquarters this afternoon. “For Norm Coleman to try and deflect attention from this incredibly serious matter by attacking me with false claims is simply insulting to voters who have a right to know the facts before the election.”
Franken further stated that neither he nor anybody associated with his campaign had any knowledge of the lawsuit until news of the Texas case surfaced in media reports earlier this week. The Democratic challenger said he’s uncertain if his campaign will release its own ad to counter the Coleman attack. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is running a spot featuring video of Coleman refusing to answer questions from reporters about the controversy.
Prior to Franken’s press conference, DFL chair Brian Melendez called on Kazeminy to answer questions about the allegations. “These lawsuits have rocked the race for the United States Senate,” Melendez said, flanked by a blown-up picture of the Iranian-American businessman. “Minnesotans could have a lot more clarity about the choice they’re being called to make on Tuesday if only Mr. Kazeminy would come forward and clear the air about his role in the affair, preferably under oath.”
The DFL chair also pointed out that Paul McKim, the plaintiff in the initial lawsuit, made the allegations under oath and could face criminal punishment if they prove to be fabricated. “Such an oath has serious consequences,” he said. “It can’t be taken lightly or dismissed as a stunt.”
Melendez further stated that if the allegations are true, Coleman would be facing a criminal investigation. “These charges are serious,” he said. “We are in Ted Stevens territory here.”