FBI probe of relationship between Coleman and major donor continues

  • Article by: TONY KENNEDY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 14, 2009 - 7:56 PM

The FBI continues to investigate the relationship between former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman and a close friend who has been a major political donor, according to a source who was questioned by the FBI.

The source, who asked not to be identified, said the interview with two FBI agents took place within the past two weeks. They asked questions about an allegation that Bloomington financier Nasser Kazeminy paid for suits and other items for Coleman and his wife, Laurie, at Nieman Marcus in Minneapolis.

"They said they've been talking to a lot of people,'' the source said Thursday.

Depending on if and when the alleged purchases occurred, the arrangement could violate Senate rules regulating gifts to members. Kazeminy is a wealthy businessman whose friendship with Coleman dates to when Coleman was mayor of St. Paul. Kazeminy has been a major contributor to Coleman's campaigns and to the Republican Party.

In the two weeks before the November U.S. Senate election, two lawsuits were filed, accusing Kazeminy of funneling payments from a Texas company he controls to a Minneapolis insurance firm where Laurie Coleman was employed to benefit the Colemans.

Spokesmen for Kazeminy and Coleman have vehemently denied the allegations.

Coleman's spokesman, Tom Erickson, was asked Thursday whether the FBI has questioned Norm or Laurie Coleman. The spokesman gave the following written response: "The Senator called for an investigation by the appropriate authorities, and has promised to cooperate fully with them. To that end, any further comment is not necessary.''

The Huffington Post reported that the possibility exists that the sole target of the FBI's work is Kazeminy and not Coleman. In the civil suits connected to Kazeminy's Texas company, Deep Marine Technology, Kazeminy is alleged to have steered company money to benefit Coleman and others outside the company. As part of those suits, former Deep Marine CEO Paul McKim alleged that he was forced to overlook $75,000 in payments to Minneapolis-based Hays Companies, the employer of Coleman's wife. Hays has denied any wrongdoing.

Tony Kennedy• 612-673-4213

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