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Court rules Coleman could be fourth-most corrupt Senator

OK, a wee bit harsh, but a state administrative law judge today tossed out Norm Coleman’s late-campaign complaint that Al Franken’s ads were demonstrably false.

At issue: whether Coleman could fairly be attacked as the fourth-most corrupt Senator based on the rankings of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a D.C. watchdog group.

In the ruling (PDF), Judge Barbara Neilson writes:

All told, there are three senators identified on CREW’s list of the “20 Most Corrupt Members of Congress,” and one senator (Senator Coleman) identified on CREW’s list of “Dishonorable Mentions. … Because the statement made in the Franken advertisements accurately captures the “gist” or “sting” of Senator Coleman’s placement in the CREW listing of the 20 “most corrupt” members of Congress and “four to watch,” there is not probable cause to believe that a violation of the statute has occurred.

Note: this does not establish that Coleman really is the fourth-most corrupt, but that the Franken campaign fairly represented the watchdog group’s data.

The Judge also upheld Franken’s assertion that CREW is bipartisan.

(Hat tip: KARE’s Scott Goldberg.)

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Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by Dave Kliman on 11/13/2008 - 05:15 pm.

    MN will wonder just how it ever let Norm Coleman be senator in the first place, after the breath of fresh air Franken will bring.

  2. Submitted by Dick Novack on 11/13/2008 - 08:34 pm.

    David, after the headline, my estimation of you went into the crapper. Joel recently told the Edina Rotary about MinnPost’s leeway for opinion – with fairness – in articles – to differentiate from mainstream papers. He also explained the Minnesota focus. I further realize economics of competition also encourage Google’s(TM) of catchy headlines to bring clicks. But, given all this latitude, in this column you are over the line, way over. The judge did not and could not, under free speech, rule on whether CREW is, just like many 527’s and 504(c)4’s, a sham impartial organization or a truely impartial organization. But you as a journalist can and have an obligation to the reader to do so – impartially. For you to treat CREW as if it were true public interest non-partisan makes me wonder how you feel about an equally “non-partisan” organization calling itself Minnesota Majority which is wholely evil on the opposite side of the political scene.

  3. Submitted by David Brauer on 11/13/2008 - 08:54 pm.

    Dick – just to correct one thing you wrote.

    As I read the judge wasn’t ruling about CREW being “impartial” (or “nonpartisan”) but “bipartisan.” They are different things.

    The Franken camp claimed that CREW watches both parties. The judge looked at CREW’s list (of 20 “most corrupt” senators and four “dishonorable mentions”) and decided that, because there were Republicans and Democrats on the list (roughly 2-to-1 Republican), it was not demonstrably false to call the list bipartisan, and thus the group in its watchdog role.

    The headline is a bit of sport (it’s always dangerous when you sue claiming you’re not something, and a judge says it’s not demonstrably false). Yours is a reminder that sport is risky, and I’ll take that to heart, even though I think the story immediately characterizes the ruling fairly.

  4. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 11/14/2008 - 10:02 am.

    Minnesota Ripe for Election Fraud,2933,449334,00.html



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