The down-low on Coleman's digs in upscale D.C. neighborhood

  • Article by: EMILY KAISER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 11, 2008 - 11:48 PM

WASHINGTON - Norm Coleman slept here -- but the FedEx box turned nightstand, neckties tossed over the top of an accordion-style closet door and low ceilings aren't much to write home about.

The Washington, D.C., living arrangements of Minnesota's senior senator recently came under fire when reports surfaced that Coleman is renting space for $600 a month from a longtime Republican associate. Political opponents detected a "sweetheart deal" in what is a strikingly affordable rent for Washington's upscale Capitol Hill neighborhood.

The Star Tribune requested a tour of Coleman's accommodations, and on Friday a reporter snooped around the senator's pad with his communications chief, LeRoy Coleman.

All in all, it wasn't exactly the bling-and-chandelier scene of "MTV Cribs."

Coleman's space, while hardly extravagant, is well-kept and renovated.

A set of stairs beneath the three-story rowhouse's front door leads down to his private entrance to the garden-level apartment. The main carpeted living room, with a low, approximately 7-foot ceiling, is cluttered with desks, computers and telephones used by his landlord's employees during business hours. Young children stomped around in the space above; they belong to the family that rents the upper floors.

Two couches and a TV fill the far end of the living room. LeRoy Coleman said the senator may use the couches occasionally.

Sen. Coleman doesn't have a kitchen, but his wet bar lines the back of the living room. It includes a small sink, cupboard space and an empty wine cooler. The mini-fridge was well stocked with bottled water and yogurt. On the marble counters were granola bars and other snack food and the senator's iron and ironing board.

A few steps down a cramped hall is the bathroom, just big enough for one person to turn around. Turn the corner and the senator is within leaping distance to his tall full-sized bed, covered with a mound of pillows.

The bed almost fills the 10-by-10 space, leaving only a several-foot-wide walking space between the bed and the closet. Photos, including one of his family alongside President Bush, line the walls.

Squeezed between the end of the bed and the wall is a bench with a table and laptop dock in the corner. The neatly organized closet was all business: collared shirts, dress suits and a pile of black shoes on the floor. Jay Winik's "The Great Upheaval" sat on the makeshift bedside table.

A Washington-based government watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), has asked for a Senate ethics committee investigation to determine if Coleman is violating gift rules by paying a below-market rent.

A spokeswoman for Senate Ethics Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer said the panel will "take a look" at a citizens' group's complaint but declined to say if there will be a formal investigation.

Staff writer Kevin Diaz contributed to this report. Emily Kaiser • 202-408-2723

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