Coleman camp clarifies Strib claim, and so does this reporter

On Friday, Norm Coleman’s campaign issued a statement on DonorGate alleging, “Sometime last week, even before this Texas lawsuit was originally filed, a copy of these false allegations was delivered in Minnesota in an unmarked envelope to two Minneapolis Star Tribune reporters.”

Later that day, I asked Strib managing editor Rene Sanchez if the paper had the lawsuit then. He told me, “We did not get a copy of this lawsuit until after it was filed Monday.”

Today (Saturday), Coleman campaign manager Cullen Sheehan clarified: the unmarked envelope sent before the lawsuit filing “contained — not a lawsuit — but false allegations that became the basis of a lawsuit that was filed in Texas on Monday.”

Friday, I wrote that the Strib “contradicted” Coleman. Now, I believe both Coleman’s statements and the Strib’s are true — with a few important qualifications.

I believe the Strib didn’t have a copy of the lawsuit, but I now believe the paper had some version of some set of these allegations before this week. Sanchez wouldn’t comment when I tried to follow up.

My mistake? Unsuccessfully parsing Coleman’s initial statement; I read “copy of these false allegations” to mean “copy of the lawsuit.”

But let’s not get carried away revising the record.

Remember, the reason Coleman is making a big deal of the Strib is to somehow link Al Franken to the lawsuits (or, now, lawsuits). Yesterday, Coleman’s statement segued from the Strib receiving a pre-filing “copy of these false allegations” to Franken “running vicious, untrue attacks against me” on filing day.

That attempt was underscored today by a misleading Coleman ad, but even now, the Republican’s case is no stronger. The Coleman camp has provided no evidence Franken’s forces knew in advance; the Republican’s very acknowledgment of the “unmarked envelope” indicates he doesn’t know, either.

The Franken campaign has flatly denied knowing anything in advance. Franken also rebuts Coleman’s circumstantial link — ads referencing the incumbent’s D.C. rent deal and alleged “fourth-most-corrupt” status — by noting the claims were on TV well before last week.

If Franken wasn’t behind it, who was?

Like the Coleman campaign, I don’t know. It could’ve been the plaintiffs or allies who cared less about helping Franken than embarrassing defendent Nasser Kazeminy in his home state in the state’s largest daily. Perhaps they wanted to exploit the political calendar for leverage, but that doesn’t necessarily make their motives political or the claims less credible.

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Comments (7)

  1. Submitted by David Koski on 11/01/2008 - 07:51 pm.

    Scoping the local blog scene shows that you did a great job today. A Saturday no less, and I for one am grateful. Why is Brodkorb so concerned about when the Strib knew and how and from who? I have my hunches.

    What is so interesting about this case is the timing. The Coleman campaign had to know that this was a possibility. Maybe there will be some disinformation put out in the next two days to try to nullify the allegations against Coleman. The Rovian trick of discrediting the source or something like that.

  2. Submitted by Ed Newton on 11/02/2008 - 08:25 am.

    I have been following this story with great interest over the past several days. Kudos to David Brauer and Erik Black for providing coverage that is much more comprehensive than can be found at the Strib or Pioneer Press. With the allegations that the Coleman camp has made regarding this suit being forwarded to the Strib prior to the Thursday filing in Texas, I am wondering what responsibility the editorial board has at the Strib to answer these charges? It seems as though their silence at this stage is a disservice to the voting public. What responsibility does an editorial have in this situation?

  3. Submitted by Dick Novack on 11/02/2008 - 10:36 am.

    Although it keeps a lot of reporters and commentators gainfully (gainfully??) employed – it is time to keep freedom of speech but rein-in 527, 501(c)4, PAC – especially fake PACs that are really connected campaigns or members of campaigns … AND to place greater documentation requirements on advertising claims. I mean make them spend the money for time and ad space documenting claims in more detail right in the ad. The sleaze on all sides is what sells, I realize, but do we want elected officials chosen by the best sleaze factor rating system? In your story line I ignore who in the media knew what when and focus on how it was possible for a Franken ad campaign using the lawsuit material to NOT be connected with a likely scurilous complaint. Just from a production side, timing was too close. Thus making Franken’s campaign staff eligible for the lowest national award available this year.

  4. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 11/02/2008 - 12:16 pm.

    David, you wrote,

    “Later that day, I asked Strib managing editor Rene Sanchez if the paper had the lawsuit then. He told me, ‘We did not get a copy of this lawsuit until after it was filed Monday.'”

    Don’t you think Sanchez was wrongly obfuscating? Strikes me he should have told you that the Strib was given the allegations last week. To hang a denial on the word, “lawsuit,” is what gives MSM its reputation.

    Great job on the clarification, and I echo, “on a Saturday, no less.”

    To David Koski, you must not be familiar with campaigns. For Coleman or the GOP to do what you suggest is playing with fire. No way, no how.

    Easy summary so far: Someone — either the Franken campaign, a DFL party unit or a DFL someone — shopped this to the Strib, and the Strib didn’t bite.

    Thus the lawsuit. Forced the “story.”

    The $64,000 question remains:

    Who gave the Strib the allegations last week?

    That’s the story the Strib should be working on, right now. If the allegations were blindly emailed or faxed, the Strib should say so.

  5. Submitted by David Brauer on 11/02/2008 - 01:01 pm.

    Sarah –

    Trust me, it was my fault on the Sanchez matter. I was pursuing one specific angle hard, on deadline, with a source who wasn’t otherwise commenting, and didn’t allow for a lot of wiggle room. My bad.

    I agree the Strib should say more about how this worked, without compromising sources or methods. But they do need to protect sources, so there may be some official and reasonable gray area no matter what we want.

    I still think it’s up to the Coleman camp to prove it was Franken, since they’re the ones making that link. Otherwise, it’s the “do-you-deny-you-beat-your-wife” stuff they abhor on the larger allegations.

  6. Submitted by Dick Novack on 11/02/2008 - 01:25 pm.

    I really hate blog follow-up discourses but will this once anyway to compliment Sarah Janecek, on her comment and today’s KSTP At Issue where last day forthrightness ran uncharacteristically rampant. To see Sarah and Ember pick each other’s candidate to win had me reaching for a Cardiac Defibrillator. Moreover, Tom Hauser deserves a local Emmy for limiting candidates to only positive statements. Partisanship aside, it was hilarious seeing Franken fumble for phrasing without innuendo in it, while it fell right into Barkley’s style to do so. Too bad only we pol junkies follow this stuff.

    David, this media revolution could provide you with several new columns.

  7. Submitted by Tommy Johnson on 11/02/2008 - 02:17 pm.

    Sarah, why does the anonymous source have to be limited to the choices you list, and why are all of your limited choices DFL connected?

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