Bravo to the local media for sticking with the two lawsuits that came up last week alleging Sen. Norm Coleman's buddy Nasser Kazeminy funneled $75,000 through wife Laurie Coleman's business and eventually to the Coleman family. But some of this speculation is driving us nuts.
In his latest TV ad, Coleman accuses the Franken campaign of engaging in an 11th Hour attack on him, alongside other Democrats and with the help of the Star Tribune. The controversy ignited all sorts of speculation into who received the tips and how long Coleman or other reporters started investigating these claims.
MinnPost's David Brauer has been following the Star Tribune angle since Friday and has come to some conclusions.
On Friday, Norm Coleman's campaign issued a statement on DonorGate alleging, "Sometime last week, even before this Texas lawsuit was originally filed, a copy of these false allegations was delivered in Minnesota in an unmarked envelope to two Minneapolis Star Tribune reporters."
Later that day, I asked Strib managing editor Rene Sanchez if the paper had the lawsuit then. He told me, "We did not get a copy of this lawsuit until after it was filed Monday."
Coleman's camp clarified their statement later saying the Star Tribune's unmarked envolope "contained -- not a lawsuit -- but false allegations that became the basis of a lawsuit that was filed in Texas on Monday," according to MinnPost.
I believe the Strib didn't have a copy of the lawsuit, but I now believe the paper had some version of some set of these allegations before this week. Sanchez wouldn't comment when I tried to follow up.
Well that just has the Republicans really fired up. Ron Carey, Republican Party of Minnesota chairman, wrote a letter to the Star Tribune demanding they answer the following questions (copy of letter from MN Dems Exposed):
* When exactly did its reporters, Tony Kennedy and Paul McEnroe, receive the allegations that were ultimately put into a lawsuit this week? * What was contained in those allegations - and who sent the allegations to them? * Did they speak to any individual associated with these allegations prior to the lawsuit being filed - and when did they speak to them? * Why did the Star Tribune reporters - being fully aware that the lawsuit had been withdrawn - drive up to St. Cloud and ambush the Senator in front of television crews and a DFL Party employee who had a video camera? * Has the Star Tribune made any effort to demand that Al Franken and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee pull down the ad attacking Senator Coleman and his wife - or, are they admitting that the information their reporters had with them - is the same information that the DSCC used in its television commercial that is now starring their two investigative reporters?
We're not quite sure why this matters. In the over-dramatic days leading up to the election, why does it really matter? The lawsuits are currently filed, with sworn statements, and the Star Tribune has a huge responsibility to cover this. Does it matter when they found out? Nope. They are doing their jobs as reporters to follow this story and investigate tips just like any other tip they would receive.
In the MNIndy story yesterday, they come to a conclusion that Coleman knew of this lawsuit and started addressing it early in October. They base it off of the notorious Oct. 8 Coleman suitgate press conference and also his speech when he cut negative ads:
Excerpts from Coleman's Oct. 10 press conference:
Over the last several days I have received a fresh batch of questions from reporters, fueled by blogs, about personal issues concerning my finances, my family and my wife....
In recent days, outrageous questions and insinuations have been lodged against my wife about her employment. My wife's job has been disclosed as required under the ethics laws of the United States Senate. My wife is a certified and licensed insurance agent - she works for a living - and her employer is pleased with her work - and she is pleased with her job.
During the first press conference, Rachel Stassen-Berger of the Pioneer Press asked questions about Coleman's wife, but never specifies money, a lawsuit or anything related to the current allegations. Based on her questions, and Coleman's responses, it seems like he is responding to some of the comments made in the Harpers article that caused this controversy in the first place:
Meanwhile, the senator's own wife, Laurie Coleman, is employed by Minneapolis-based Hays Companies, according to his latest personal financial disclosure form. The Hays Companies offers clients advice on risk management, commercial insurance, and employee benefits. The firm's executives, their spouses and employees provided Coleman with $20,700 in campaign contributions between 2002 and 2006.
It's not clear why a risk management firm would require the services of Laurie Coleman, an aspiring actress and the inventor of the "Blo & Go," a hands-free hair drying device ("The whole key to this is the suction," she has explained of her product's utility.) Coleman's financial disclosure form doesn't list his wife's job description or salary. LeRoy Coleman, the senator's spokesman, declined to elaborate; the firm did not reply to a request for comment.
Stretching the association between the two? We think so. We've tried to contact Stassen-Berger just to be sure she wasn't aware of the allegations when she posed the questions, but no word yet.