As Norm Coleman gets set for a recount in his bid to hold onto his Minnesota Senate seat, it's worth considering where things stand on the allegations that surfaced in the waning days of the campaign about Coleman's relationship with his friend and longtime associate, the businessman Nasser Kazeminy.
Here's what we know:
Late last month, in a suit
filed in Texas, Paul McKim, the former CEO of Deep Marine Technologies (DMT), alleged in a sworn statement that Kazeminy -- who owns DMT -- directed him to make payments totaling $75,000 to the Hays Companies, a Minnesota insurance brokerage that employs Coleman's wife Laurie Coleman. The payments, claimed McKim in the suit, were not for legitimate work performed by Hays for DMT, but rather were a way for Kazeminy to funnel money to Coleman.
Soon afterwards, a group of DMT investors filed
a separate suit naming both Kazeminy and McKim as defendants, and making similar allegations.
Since news of the suits surfaced in late October, none of the principals has offered responses that have put the matter to rest.
Coleman has vehemently denied
the charges, and even cut a last-minute TV ad
suggesting, with little evidence, that the campaign of his opponent, Democrat Al Franken, was behind them. And yesterday, when a progressive Minnesota watchdog group that ran ads attacking Coleman during the campaign held a press conference at which it called for investigations
by the FBI and the Senate Ethics Committee into the matter, Coleman quickly said
in a statement that he would welcome such probes, and that he wanted them to start "immediately." (Coleman's Senate office did not immediately respond to a detailed message from TPMmuckraker asking whether he has already been contacted by investigators.)
But neither Norm Coleman nor Laurie Coleman have offered details on the nature of her work for Hays.
Neither has Hays. Soon after news of the allegations broke, the company put out a statement
calling the charges "libelous and defamatory." It said that Laurie Coleman "has been an Independent Contractor for Hays Companies since 2006," but offered no further detail on what she does for the company, beyond saying that she "receives no compensation related to the services we provide for our client Deep Marine Technology."
What are those services? Again, the statement was vague, saying only: "In the first half of 2007, we were retained to provide our risk management consulting services, and that work continues at this time."
As for Kazeminy, after initially remaning silent, he eventually hired a top Minneapolis-based crisis management expert, who late last week issued
a tautological denial on his behalf: "Mr. Kazeminy vehemently denies the false and baseless claims made against him in recent weeks."
It's also worth noting that Norm Coleman and the Hays Companies may not have been on the same page about the arrangement between the firm and Laurie Coleman - a former model and actress who, according to state records examined by TPMmuckraker, only received her insurance license in October 2006. As we reported
earlier this week, Norm Coleman wrote on his Senate disclosure forms for 2006 and 2007 that Laurie Coleman receives a salary from Hays - which would appear to contradict Hays' assertion that she's an independent contractor.
And according to FEC records examined by TPMmuckraker, Hays has been a frequent financial contributor to Coleman's Senate campaigns.
We may have to wait for possible law-enforcement or congressional investigations to get to the truth about Coleman's role in the alleged scheme. But it's certain that, barring any compelling explanations from any of the principals said to be involved, questions about the affair won't be going away any time soon.