Paper: FBI probing benefactor to GOP senator
Nick Juliano
Published: Wednesday December 10, 2008

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Allegations against Coleman emerged before election

The FBI is probing deeper into allegations of fraud involving Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN), his wife and a wealthy benefactor.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press reports Wednesday that federal investigators have begun interviewing sources familiar with the alleged scheme to funnel money to the Republican senator. A source tells the paper that individuals in Texas have been contacted by the feds.

A lawsuit in Houston alleges that financier Nasser Kazeminy attempted to deliver $100,000 to Coleman through a company that employs his wife, according to the Pioneer Press. A similar suit in Delaware says Kazeminy tried to give money directly to Coleman.

The Coleman campaign said it was unaware of any FBI investigation and had not been contacted. It dismissed the allegations as "baseless, sleazy and politically inspired," although as the Pioneer Press notes the campaign provided no evidence that the allegations were political.

The lawsuits were filed in the final days of the campaign between Coleman and Democratic candidate Al Franken, at which point Coleman tried to dismiss it as a last minute political hit or ignore it altogether. A more memorable scene from the closing days of the Minnesota Senate race saw a Minneapolis Star Tribune reporter chasing Coleman from a campaign event waving a copy of the lawsuit and shouting questions.

The outcome of the Senate race remains unknown as a recount in Minnesota continues. A state canvassing board next week will begin considering the more than 6,600 challenged ballots before it, and many details about the count remain to be worked out.

The end of the count may rest on how many challenges the campaigns give up -- Coleman's camp has already dropped 650 challenges while Franken's has withdrawn more than 1,000. A canvassing board official tells the Star Tribune that the board likely will only be able to count 950 or so ballots during the three days it is scheduled to convene next week, but if it doesn't get through all of the challenges it can reconvene in January, after the holidays.

Congress is scheduled to reconvene Jan. 6, and it may be doing so without a second senator from Minnesota.