Donors to Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman's re-election campaign may be surprised to learn that the St. Paul Republican is planning to use their contributions to pay blue-chip criminal defense lawyers to defend him against a reported FBI probe into his dealings with a wealthy businessman.
As the Strib and our Josh Kraushaar report, Coleman and his wife Laurie have retained lawyers Earl Gray and Doug Kelley to deal with allegations that his friend and political patron Nasser Kazeminy funneled $80,000 to the senator's wife through a Kazeminy-controlled Texas oil services company. The Colemans have denied the charges -- and accused rival Al Franken of stoking the controversy.
“We intend to have any legal fees related to what we believe to be a politically inspired legal action to be covered by the Senator’s campaign," said Coleman spokesman Luke Friedrich.
The tactic may be risky: The Federal Election Commission allows elected officials to use their war chests to pay legal bills only if the action/investigations arise as a result of their tenure in office or campaigns.
Many of the allegations against Coleman and his wife pre-date the as-yet undecided race against Franken -- even though Coleman has argued the matter only came to light as a result of the campaign.
In any event, the senator will likely need an FEC advisory opinion -- and late Tuesday they signaled their intention to do so.
"We will be seeking the necessary approvals at the proper time to ensure that this is done in strict accordance with all appropriate laws and rules.”