Norm Coleman’s new problem

NORM COLEMAN’S NEW PROBLEM…. For the last several weeks, it appeared that Sen. Norm Coleman’s (R-Minn.) biggest, most nagging problem was the painful recount mess. As it turns, he now has yet another — arguably more serious — problem to deal with.

A lawsuit was filed several weeks ago alleging that a Coleman supporter named Nasser Kazeminy tried to illegally support the Republican’s re-election campaign. It gets a little complicated, but ultimately, Kazeminy is accused of using his business to funnel $100,000 to the Republican senator through an insurance company where Coleman’s wife works. The lawsuit was filed by the former CEO of the company Kazeminy allegedly hoped to use in his scheme. (A second, parallel lawsuit claims Kazeminy tried to illegally contribute the $100,000 to Coleman directly.)

The matter has now drawn the FBI’s attention.

Federal investigators are looking into allegations that a longtime friend and benefactor tried to steer money to U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, the Pioneer Press has learned.

Agents with the FBI have talked to or made efforts to talk to people in Texas familiar with the allegations, according to a source familiar with the situation.

It’s hard to tell the seriousness of the situation, given the preliminary reporting. The FBI is apparently conducting an investigation, but beyond that, the details are a little thin.

In fact, I’ve seen some reports this morning that argue that Coleman is himself now the subject of an FBI inquiry. This report doesn’t quite reach that conclusion — federal investigators are reviewing Kazeminy’s efforts to help Coleman, but that suggests the wrongdoing may have come from the donor, not the beneficiary. (Coleman’s spokesperson claims that neither the senator nor his office has been contacted by the FBI.)

Last night, Coleman’s campaign office said in a statement that these are “baseless, sleazy and politically inspired allegations,” but as the Pioneer Press noted, “The campaign provided no evidence for the claim that the allegations are ‘politically inspired.'”

We’ll see where this goes.

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