Sen. Norm Coleman retains defense attorney following corruption suits
Stephen C. Webster
Published: Tuesday December 16, 2008

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UPDATE: The FBI has said it is investigating claims against Coleman donor Kazeminy.

For Republican Senator Norm Coleman, whose prolonged electoral battle with his Democratic opponent Al Franken has been well publicized, public life just isn't getting any easier.

Breaking reports from Coleman's home state of Minnesota indicate the Senator-in-limbo has retained the services of defense attorney Doug Kelley, as part of an effort to fend off charges of corruption in two lawsuits.

The suits, filed in Delaware and Texas, also name Coleman's wife Laurie, Jim Hayes, Laurie's employer, and Nasser Kazeminy, an Iranian-born millionaire.

Both suits claim that Sen. Coleman accepted approximately $75,000 from Kazeminy in a payment scheme that funneled the money through Kazeminy's Houston-based Deep Marine Technologies and into the coffers of Coleman's wife's employer.

The FBI, in announcing the onset of an investigation into claims against Kazeminy, added that Sen. and Laurie Coleman, along with Hayes, are not part of the investigation. Kazeminy's attorney, Joe Friedberg, works for Minneapolis-based Winthrop & Weinstine, a law firm which once employed Sen. Coleman.

Records show Kazeminy is among Minnesota's top 20 political donors, with all but one contribution from the last election cycle flowing into Republican accounts. Kazeminy also donated to former Governor Bill Richardson's presidential campaign.

"The Kazeminy family made $4,000 in contributions to the then-St. Paul mayorís 1997 re-election campaign," reports the Minnesota Independent. "Three years later Kazeminy footed the bill for Coleman to fly to Jordan for a global trade conference. Since joining the Senate in 2002, Coleman has taken at least two more trips at the businessmanís expense. In 2004 the senator and his wife flew back from Paris on a private plane owned by Kazeminy, a $2,870 value. The following year Coleman and his daughter used Kazeminyís plane to jet off to the Bahamas, a trip valued at $3,960. 'Itís a friend with a plane,' Coleman explained to the Star Tribune after the subsidized trips came to light in 2006."

To fight the allegations of corruption, the Colemans' lawyers have hired a private investigation firm comprised of former FBI agents.

On Monday, elections officials in Minn. began a recount of 1,400 challenged ballots in the ongoing race between Sen. Coleman and Al Franken.