Hey Sen. Coleman: Why not document that the allegations against you are untrue?

If Norm Coleman is as innocent as he says of receiving tens of thousands of dollars of improper gifts from his wealthy friend Nasser Kazeminy, there’s a lot he could do, with the help of his friends, to put the allegation to rest.

So far, he has declined to do these things, relying instead on ever-more strongly worded denials but not putting out any proof, some of which he almost surely possesses.

Last week I asked Sen. Coleman, the Hays Companies and Kazeminy to advance the cause of disproving the allegations made in two lawsuits by releasing documents that would come pretty close to settling the question. No documents were produced.

Coleman’s campaign manager, Cullen Sheehan, replied to my request with: “The Senator has denied these baseless and slimy allegations, and has stated he welcomes an investigation.  That’s all we have to say on the matter.”

The public relations firm that Kazeminy has engaged to handle his response to the matter declined to go any further than Kazeminy’s previous statements that “Mr. Kazeminy vehemently denies the false and baseless claims made against him.”

I have, to date, received no reply to my missive to the media contact email for Hays Companies.

They all have, of course, every right to ignore such a request until it comes from a court, a law enforcement agency, or perhaps the Senate Ethics Committee. But if, as all three say, they have nothing to hide and have done nothing like what was alleged in the lawsuits, they would appear to have little to lose from establishing that with documents and not just adjectives.

What documents am I talking about? It’s pretty simple. Norm and Laurie Coleman could make public records showing what Mrs. Coleman has earned since the beginning of 2007, a copy of the contract under which she is paid by the Hays Companies, the nature of the work she did under that contract and documents indicating which Hays clients she serviced and what she was paid. If Sen. Coleman can establish that his wife did a reasonable amount of work for a reasonable amount of pay, the idea that her job is some kind of a sham will take a serious blow.

It’s important that whatever records they might choose to divulge be as tamper-proof and time-stamped as possible. Let’s face facts. Sen. Coleman has already said there is nothing to the allegations. If he wants to convince people who weren’t willing to take his word for that, it’s important that the documents be above reproach and not easily susceptible to the suspicion that they were created after the fact.

The Hays Companies, founded and run by Jim Hays, another wealthy Coleman friend and supporter, could also, at Coleman’s request and with Kazeminy’s permission, make public the contract under which Hays has been paid at least $75,000 (and perhaps more) by Deep Marine Technology (a Texas company, controlled by Kazeminy, engaged in the underwater exploration for and production of offshore oil and gas) for some kind of undisclosed consulting services.

In case you are just tuning in, the allegation in the lawsuits is that at Kazeminy’s direction, and presumably with Hays’ collusion, a sham contract was struck between DMT and Hays that required no real work but provided cover for Kazeminy to put up to $100,000 into a pipeline that would run from DMT to Hays to Mrs. Coleman for the benefit of Sen. Coleman.

Paul McKim, the plaintiff in one of the suits who is also the founder and, until recently at least, the CEO of DMT, says that DMT received nothing of any value to the corporation for its payments to Hays and that he tried to stop the arrangement after the first $75,000 had been paid. (In fairness to Sen. Coleman, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit have not alleged that any improper payments reached either of the Colemans, only that a scheme with that purpose was launched with DMT money.)

If Hays can document that DMT received a reasonable amount of service under the contract, the idea of the sham contract would receive a serious blow.

Hays might also document what particular expertise it has in the insurance needs of an underwater mining concern. The possession of such expertise might help explain why a Texas firm would come to Minneapolis for its advice. For example, if Hays is paid similar amounts for its advice by similar clients, that would support the notion that the DMT-Hays contract was a real deal.

If such documentation exists, and if all of the parties agreed to its release, it’s hard to see why the documents should or could not be made public. I asked for such documents in my email to Hays.

Lastly, Kazeminy could, through his control of Deep Marine, produce and make public internal records of that company establishing that, contrary to the allegations of Deep Marine’s suspended CEO, the DMT-Hays contract was legitimate and that DMT received for its considerable payments real work that was of value to DMT.

If all of those documents were made public and checked out, there would be little remaining basis to believe that, as alleged in two lawsuits backed up by some documents and at least one sworn statement, the DMT-Hays contract was a sham designed to channel money from Kazeminy to Hays to Laurie Coleman and ultimate to the personal benefit of Sen. Coleman.

Coleman has said that neither he nor his wife ever got a dime out of any such deal, but questions linger — questions that could be easily answered if Coleman, Kazeminy and Hays produce documents that back up their public statements.

Comments (14)

  1. Submitted by Tommy Johnson on 11/17/2008 - 11:32 am.

    Why the ol’ Team Smokescreen “smokescreen”?

    Because they can.

    We don’t even have to go to the Wayback Machine to watch Team Smokescreen perform “The Smokescreen Shuffle”; YouTube has the video here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VySnpLoaUrI

    Team Smokescreen refused to answer questions from the Capital Press Corps (and, at the 0:52 second mark, this blogger’s question, too).

    And until the “credentialed media” refuses to take a smokescreen for an answer, Team Coleman will continue to perform “The Smokescreen Shuffle.”

  2. Submitted by Jeff Urbanek on 11/17/2008 - 11:51 am.

    This all falls on us — the American people. Critical thinking has taken a beating, and is now considered “elitist.” Truth and falsehood do not grapple as they once did (in Milton’s day). Instead they are just considered alternate perspectives. We as Americans could stop this by demanding transparency and honesty, by not buying into what we want to hear but what is really there. By insisting on journalism that uses names, not closely placed sources or off-the-record comments.

    Thank you Eric Black, for not only sticking to the facts but also insisting on them.

  3. Submitted by Brian Simon on 11/17/2008 - 12:19 pm.

    I think, as party to a lawsuit, the Hays corporation is justified in being unwilling to disclose records related to the allegations. The Colemans’ behavior is less understandable.

  4. Submitted by John E Iacono on 11/17/2008 - 02:05 pm.

    I can think of one good reason for the Coleman campaign to decline comment:

    To preven muckracking journalists from CONSTANTLY bring up the topic before the case has been tried and its merits evaluated in a court of law.

    In the ticklish political situation involving charges, countercharges, and tons of politically motivated blather intended to slant the views of voters no matter the outcome of the recount, this topic seems particularly inappropriate.

    Reminds my of my kids whining for ice cream cones before supper. Now, as then, I just roll my eyes and say “Hold on to your britches.”

  5. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 11/17/2008 - 03:27 pm.

    I think Al Franken should provide information that he is not a comic…I am sorry, he has already done that.

  6. Submitted by Tony Wagner on 11/17/2008 - 03:57 pm.

    I hope that the lawsuits proceed fairly as far as the plaintiffs wish to take them, and depending on the results of those suits, the Senate investigates Coleman’s involvement as well.

    However, there is no formal complaint yet against Coleman, and I believe it is fundamentally wrong to demand someone prove their innocence in such a scenario. Demanding documents about a spouse’s private employment and compensation is very intrusive and unnecessary, unless there is legally compelling reason to do so (and there is no reason for Coleman yet in this case). Plus, even if Coleman made public the documentation requested by Mr. Black, I doubt it would answer all of his questions, much less the swirling rumor and innuendo. How exactly does one disclose the precise work of a salaried employee anyway, much less determine whether their compensation was fair? This is a lot more complicated than offering a simple explanation or alibi.

    I understand that even the appearance of potential impropriety around a public servant is concerning. However, we have a fairly trustworthy legal system to address these concerns: in fact, that process has already started, and we should let it play out. I do not begrudge Coleman remaining on the sidelines at the present time, nor do I make any presumptions about his guilt based on that fact.

  7. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 11/17/2008 - 04:43 pm.

    When did you stop beating your wife, sir?

    You don’t? Well, this gentleman who has a grudge against you says that you do.

    Well, sir, if you could simply clear this up by posting photos of your wife and all her confidential records on the internet, we would appreciate it.

    If not, I hope you realize why we would have cause to be suspicious.

  8. Submitted by Jim Mogen on 11/17/2008 - 05:20 pm.

    There is a difference between Eric Black’s request, and the “muckracking” that JB Saunders is concerned with.

    First, the “allegation” comes from a lawsuit, not from any journalist. There is no reason for the claim in the lawsuit, except to provide context to the claims that Kazeminy and other investors improperly used the company.

    Second, this is at least the third example where Coleman is alleged to have received gifts and “perks” outside of the law (the first two related to his rent and his suits). The pattern may be incredibly coincidental and unfortunate, but it clearly needs additional investigation.

    Third, the lawsuit will likely not decide the merits of the charges. The allegation of funnelling $75,000 to Hays Companies is just one of a number of examples Paul McKim uses in his lawsuit. It is possible that the matter will be resolved out of court, or without making any findings about the $75,000.

    Finally, it is unlikely that the lawsuit will resolve the most important issue. Did the Coleman’s know they were getting an illegal gift?

  9. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 11/17/2008 - 07:14 pm.

    Much as I hate to say it, the onus of proof is on those making the claim that the law has been broken.
    Something about the assumption of innocence….
    It may or may not be good politics/PR to disprove allegations, but it is certainly not a legal requirement.

  10. Submitted by Eric Black on 11/17/2008 - 09:29 pm.

    I agree with those who have said that Sen. Coleman is under no obligation to produce any of these documents unless ordered to by a judge or, possibly, the Senate Ethics Committee.

    And, with Election Day behind us, he has no urgent need reassure potential voters that he didn’t benefit from a scheme such as the one alleged. And perhaps he, and Hays and Kazeminy are under legal advice to stand pat on their blanket denials and avoid specifics.

    But what I meant to write was more along these lines: If thousands of people were wondering whether I had done something improper, and were still wondering about it after I had assured them I hadn’t done it (because, for inexplicable reasons, they weren’t willing to take my word for it), and I had documents that could prove my innocence, and especially if I was in a line work it was important that people believe in my ethics, I would be inclined to produce the documents. There might be some limits to what I would produce, but the documents I described are not all that personal or embarrassing (unless they tend to corroborate the allegations).

    cheers,

  11. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 11/18/2008 - 07:53 am.

    Why would DMT purchase insurance *advice* and not insurance from a company which knows nothing about its operations? Why would DMT then purchase insurance from a different company? Coleman is in deep water.

  12. Submitted by Tony Wagner on 11/18/2008 - 10:38 am.

    Thanks for the response, Eric. I still think you’re way off base here. You demand the following:

    “public records showing what Mrs. Coleman has earned since the beginning of 2007, a copy of the contract under which she is paid by the Hays Companies, the nature of the work she did under that contract and documents indicating which Hays clients she serviced and what she was paid.”

    I don’t know if it’s “embarrassing” but that’s not just the personal information of the Colemans, but also her employer and their clients. You’d need a pretty compelling reason to make all of that public, and “satisfying a curious public” doesn’t quite cut it.

    Just like we should trust the recount for the present time, we should also trust the legal process that is underway here. Even if those lawsuits are settled without addressing Coleman’s possible involvement, I have no doubt that a Democratic-controlled Senate will look into the matter anyway.

  13. Submitted by John E Iacono on 11/18/2008 - 10:40 am.

    Dear EB:

    However, one should consider the context, and who the “thousands” of people are.

    The context: a hotly contested election where the war continues;

    where accusations of wrongdoing have been thrown on both sides and continue to be;

    where all these accusations by any fair observer will seem to have been distorted at best;

    where these charges arose at a suspicious time and by all admissions do not actually accuse the person targeted of any wrongdoing — just the kind of thing commonly used to sway votes in the last days before an election;

    where the allegations were suspiciously known to the opposing party BEFORE the lawsuit was filed;

    and where the allegations are of a nature that does not allow of any reply that would not simply feed the fires being stoked by the opposition, if their intent is to continuously create ill will.

    As for the “thousands” who doubt the candidate, with an election so close as this one it does not seem unreasonable to assume that they might well ALL be of the opposing faction, and thus subject to the suspicion of having ulterior motives themselves.

    In this context, journalistic beating of the dog seems to me more like partisan muckracking than concerned journalistic interest.

    It seems to me that concern for “fair play” in politics would motivate one to stay out of this mudfest, and let the legal processes work their way. Unless “innocent until proven guilty” no longer applies in politics if an election is at stake.

  14. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 11/18/2008 - 10:46 pm.

    This thing doesn’t even pass the smell test for me.

    First, employment lawsuits are routinely the source of complete, wholesale fabrications. Trust me.

    Second, there would be a whole lot of easier ways to funnel some money to them than to go this route involving dozens of people, apparently.

    Third, Deep Marine is an oil services company deploying ships and submersibles…this is a hugely capital intensive business. The insurance needs are ginormous. There is nothing strange about a 75k insurance brokerage fee.

    Fourth, the Colemans have said that Laurie was not on the account. IT’S NOT HER COMMISSION! Do you think the actual salesperson is going to agree to slide a bit to Laurie? Do you know any insurance brokers? I used to sell insurance brokerages…those guy know where every penny goes.

    It’s weird enough, and par for Washington, that a big donor would do major business with the Senator’s wife’s employer. But that happens all the time in the Senate. Half the Senate would be in jail if there was any sense to what spouses, kids, etc. could be doing. Look at the huge payments that Biden’s kid was pulling down from MBNA in consulting fees…you kidding me, you think there was equal value exchanged there? The hypocrisy here in singling out this transaction reeks.

    Just because some fired employee digs up something he can throw at the wall….means nothing.

    Do some digging and show some skepticism.

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