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A liberal political group Wednesday called on the Senate Ethics Committee and the FBI to investigate allegations raised in two lawsuits that a friend and supporter of U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman sought to channel $75,000 to him through an insurance agency that employs the senator's wife, Laurie.
In a statement, Coleman said, "I not only welcome such an investigation, but I am eager to have it move forward immediately."
The labor-supported Alliance for a Better Minnesota ran television ads against the Minnesota senator and other Republicans during this year's election. Its executive director, Denise Cardinal, said letters were sent to the committee and the FBI requesting the investigations.
"All we want is to find out what happened," she said.
Coleman, awaiting a recount to determine whether he won reelection, said the alliance's motivations also bear a closer look.
"I reiterate that none of the allegations which attempt to besmirch my family's good name and reputation are true," he said in the statement.
As a practice, neither the FBI nor the Senate Ethics Committee confirms whether it is investigating someone. The committee's work becomes public only if the panel, comprising three Democrats and three Republicans, decides to act after a preliminary inquiry. The committee has the authority to subpoena witnesses and documents, and recommend to the Senate a range of sanctions.
Two lawsuits filed the week before the election allege that Coleman's close family friend and campaign contributor, Nasser Kazeminy, funneled $75,000 last year to Minneapolis-based Hays Companies, the insurance agency where Laurie Coleman is employed as an independent contractor.
The suits were filed in Texas and Delaware, respectively, by the founder and minority shareholders of Deep Marine Technology of Houston, an underwater services company controlled by Kazeminy. The suits allege Kazeminy told officials at Deep Marine that he wanted to help Coleman financially. Hays allegedly received three quarterly payments of $25,000. Deep Marine founder and former CEO Paul McKim has said Hays did not provide goods or services in return for the money.
Kazeminy has vehemently denied the allegations, and Hays has called them libelous and defamatory. Neither Hays nor the Colemans are being sued, but they are mentioned in the suits. Laurie Coleman has not commented.
The allegations surfaced in the last week of Coleman's campaign for a second term. He has declared himself the winner in the close race, but DFLer Al Franken has not conceded. The latest unofficial tally puts Coleman up by 206 votes, and the confirmed victor won't be clear until a recount is completed next month.