After Sen. Norm Coleman's campaign announcement this morning of a lawsuit against his opponent Al Franken for false accusations in his TV and radio ads, the local media is reporting on the incident. Their reports ad some more depth to the story and quotes from the press conference.
Check out our first report for a recap on the story.
Coleman's main claim is that Franken's ad saying he is the fourth most corrupt senator is completely false. But according to the first media reports, there is an argument otherwise.
Mark Drake, a Coleman spokesman, said this morning at a State Capitol news conference that statements that Coleman has been named "the fourth most corrupt senator in Washington" and lives in a Washington apartment "almost rent free" are patently false.
"Al Franken has chosen to push the lines of believability far beyond the bounds of truth," Drake said.
The claim that Coleman ranks fourth among senators in corruption is based on a recent list pulled together by the Washington watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), which lists three senators among "the 20 most corrupt members of Congress" and then gives Coleman "dishonorable mention."
CREW never actually names Coleman "the fourth most corrupt senator," Drake said, nor is there any mention of the fact that CREW is led by Melanie Sloan, who has worked for high-profile Democrats and appeared dozens of times on Franken's Air America radio show.
As for Coleman's D.C. living quarters, Drake said that Coleman pays $600 a month to rent a bedroom and bath in a rowhouse owned by his longtime friend and telemarketer Jeff Larson.
Although the campaign released copies of Coleman's lease and rent checks last summer, it has not yet produced proof that the senator pays for his share of utilities in the house.
"It's a desperate attempt to change the topic," said DFL spokesman John Stiles.
The Associated Press quotes some at the office receiving the lawsuit:
The complaint was filed on an expedited basis with the state Office of Administrative Hearings.
An official with that office says a final determination on the complaint, including whether there was a violation, will take weeks or more.
MinnPost's David Brauer says Coleman's claims are false:
While the organization that judged Coleman thusly — Citizens for Responsible Ethics in Washington — may be a "liberal front group" as the Coleman campaign alleges, the "fourth-most" ranking is accurate.
There was some dissembling on this point at this morning's press conference (video below). Coleman spokesman Mark Drake noted — accurately — that CREW doesn't list Coleman among its Top 20.
The Top 20 contains three senators: Democrat Mary Landrieu and Republicans Mitch McConnell and Ted Stevens.
However, there are four "dishonorable mentions," and Coleman is the only senator listed. Thus, it is accurate to call Coleman the "fourth most corrupt."
But is it misleading? Here, the Coleman folks are on firmer ground, though not necessarily firm enough for an upholdable campaign-practices complaint.
Minnesota Independent says Coleman's campaign accusation of CREW being partisan hacks isn't exactly accurate:
The claim that Colelman is the fourth-most corrupt Senator in the country is based on alist released last month by the watchdog organization Citizen’s for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. Coleman is indeed one of just four Senators to make the cut. “It’s a non-partisan organization in Washington that looks out for ethics,” noted John Stiles, communications director for the DFL party, after the press conference. “And if you look on their web site you’ll see a lot of Democrats that they’ve gone after.”