Norm Coleman stood before a gaggle of reporters and fans at what was supposed to be a routine campaign stop in Moorhead this morning and addressed the story that’s been chasing after him for the past few days. Allegations that Coleman pal Nasser Kazeminy had funneled money to Laurie Coleman for doing a non-existent job were “absolutely false,” Coleman said. But that was only the starting point of his remarks, which sought for the better part of five minutes to paint the whole affair as a fabrication wrought by “Al Franken and his political allies.”
Only the plaintiff, Paul McKim, can answer with certainty as to his timing and motives — and Coleman’s allegation that the Strib received copies of the suit before it was filed (which is correct, according to sources there) casts doubt on the political innocence of the plaintiff’s team when it comes to the suit’s implications for Norm’s future. But that does not prove the Franken campaign had anything to do with it — unless you suppose that all the enemies Norm Coleman and/or Nasser Kazeminy have ever made now work in cahoots with the Franken campaign.
Ultimately, the question of whether politics played a role in the timing of the lawsuit has no bearing on the merit of the claims in the lawsuit. If people sometimes lie at an opportune moment for politicized reasons, as Coleman is suggesting, it is also the case that people sometimes tell the truth at an opportune moment for politicized reasons. And whatever its eventual disposition proves to be, there is considerable circumstantial evidence that this lawsuit was not merely ginned up to make Norm Coleman look bad on the eve of a hard-fought election. Let’s take the most obvious ones.
The lawsuit, contrary to the impression one might receive from Coleman’s response or from many of the press accounts, is not principally about the alleged payments to Laurie Coleman. The Kazeminy/Coleman narrative comprises roughly three pages of a 30-page legal complaint. Are we to believe the rest is all just incidental embroidery on a campaign to maliciously bring down Norm Coleman?
The complaint lodges numerous serious allegations about financial manipulations by Nasser Kazeminy and a number of his associates (there are six defendants in all). The plaintiff in the case, Paul McKim, would be facing serious legal jeopardy himself if those claims proved to be entirely baseless. (Counter-suit, anyone?)
The fact that the suit was temporarily withdrawn within a day or so while the parties negotiated toward a settlement augurs for a presumption that the claims in the suit were not entirely baseless — as does the immediacy with which the defendants took up settlement negotiations (within a matter of mere hours, apparently).
The PDF copy of the complaint posted at StarTribune.com includes photocopies of documents tracing payments from Deep Marine Technologies to Hays Companies (Laurie Coleman’s employer) as described in the complaint. [They’re on pages 29-33 of this PDF.] Now it’s possible that these documents describe legitimate transactions. (The legal complaint claims that Hays is not licensed to be an insurance broker in Texas; Hays this morning denied that.) They could conceivably be forgeries. But again, the plaintiff would be subjecting himself to a world of legal hurt if he were to sue someone based on gross and blatant fabrications.
McKim appears to be a Republican. By itself, this proves nothing — it’s possible to be a Republican and to have it out for one particular Republican — but it’s one more circumstantial factor that augurs against supposing McKim cooked up the whole thing in cahoots with the Democrats, as Coleman worked so fervently to suggest.