Judge tosses 1 claim, sets hearing for other in Coleman ad dispute

  • Updated: November 3, 2008 - 10:33 PM

An administrative law judge has dismissed part of a campaign advertising complaint filed last week by the campaign of Sen. Norm Coleman against that of Al Franken, and has ordered a hearing Wednesday to consider the other part.

In her ruling Monday, Judge Barbara Neilson said that the statement in recent ads by Franken that Coleman was living "almost rent free" in a Washington basement apartment was "an opinion and is not a statement capable of being proven factually true or false." As such, she ruled, it didn't violate state law.

However, Neilson ruled that Franken's allegation that Coleman had been named "the fourth most corrupt senator in Washington" could constitute a violation of the fair campaign practices statute if the claims in the Coleman complaint are upheld in the hearing. The judge may decide to dismiss the complaint or find probable cause that a violation occurred.

The Coleman campaign contends that the ad gave the senator a false ranking, based on a "20 most corrupt members of Congress" list released by a group called Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).

Coleman was not on that list (which included three senators), but was the only senator to receive a "dishonorable mention" from CREW as one of four additional members of Congress to watch.

Cullen Sheehan, Coleman's campaign manager, said he hoped "this lawsuit will correct the record regarding the false statements made against Senator Coleman." Franken campaign officials said they stand by their ads.

KEVIN DUCHSCHERE

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