Did Norm Coleman's financial problems compel him to turn to friends and GOP donors for help with his living situation?
That's what a new story out of Minnesota alleges. Friday morning, a local Fox News affiliate reported that at the time that Coleman allegedly received $75,000 in unreported payments from a prominent Republican businessman, he was also struggling to make payments for the restructuring of his home.
Good government officials wondered whether there was something more than coincidental to the financial exchange. And, indeed, there is other compelling -- and up to this point, unnoted -- evidence to suggest that Coleman was soliciting monetary favors from his GOP backers.
Around the same time that Coleman and/or his wife were allegedly receiving three $25,000 payments from businessman Nasser Kazeminy, the Senator was also getting cheaply discounted rent from a major Republican figure who served as his landlord in Washington D.C.
In July 2007 -- months after lawsuits assert that $75,000 was secretly funneled to the Colemans -- the Senator began paying $600 a month rent on his one-bedroom apartment on Capitol Hill, way below market value. His landlord, Republican operative and communications guru Jeff Larson, also was covering Coleman's utilities (under an apparent agreement that the Senator would be billed with an estimate once the year was over).
At the time, the D.C. arrangement raised a variety of eyebrows, mainly because Coleman had helped Larson secure millions in business related to the Republican Convention in St. Paul. The new revelations, however, suggest that the rent may have been more a favor that Larson was offering to Coleman than any sort of bribery.
Indeed, in two separate lawsuits that emerged this fall, it is alleged that, around this time, the Colemans (one of the Senate's least rich families) were in financial straits. According to one of the lawsuits in March of 2007, Kazeminy said that "U.S. Senators don't make s---" and that he was going to try to funnel money to the Minnesota Republican. From there, it is alleged, Kazeminy arranged for the three $25,000 payments to be made from his Texas-based Deep Marine Technology to Hays Companies in Minnesota for "insurance." Laurie Coleman is, officially, an employee at Hays. But she is not a licensed insurance agent.
Records provided by the Coleman campaign to the local Fox affiliate show that, during the same month that Kazeminy made his profanity-laced statement about Coleman's financial situation, the Senator refinanced his home. He and his wife had to cover construction costs on his home, which had jumped from $328,000 to $414,000 months earlier.