June 30, 2008

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington blog:

Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a complaint with the Senate Select Committee on Ethics asking for an investigation into whether Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN) violated the Senate gifts rule by accepting lodging from Republican operative Jeff Larson. The pdf copy of the complaint can be found here.

According to National Journal, in July 2007, Sen. Coleman began paying Mr. Larson $600 per month to rent a portion of a basement apartment in a Capitol Hill townhouse owned by Mr. Larson. After the magazine began making inquiries about the senator’s living arrangement, Sen. Coleman “discovered” that he had failed to pay rent in November 2007 and January 2008, and his wife gave Mr. Larson a personal check for the $1,200. Last year, Sen. Coleman sold Mr. Larson some furniture -- a couch, table and chairs and a desk -- to cover one month’s rent, and Mr. Larson held onto Sen. Coleman’s March rent check for three months, until June 17, before cashing it only days after National Journal began asking questions.

Mr. Larson runs the telemarketing firm FLS Connect, which has been paid over a million dollars by Sen. Coleman’s campaign committees and leadership PAC since 2001. Mr. Larson is also the PAC’s treasurer and FLS has been providing it with office space in St. Paul. In addition, Mr. Larson’s wife, Dorene Kainz, has been working in Sen. Coleman’s St. Paul office, but after National Journal asked about her position, Sen. Coleman’s office announced that she would soon be leaving the office.

Unsurprisingly, Coleman went on the attack:

The only surprise is that it took Al Franken’s surrogate this long to file a politically motivated attack against Senator Coleman. The Executive Director of CREW, Melanie Sloan, was a featured guest who made at least 50 appearances on Al Franken’s radio show - appearances that were marked with theme music dedicated to her and made her a reliable attack dog for the Democrat Party. We will probably see pigs flying before she gets around to filing an ethics complaint against her former boss, and current political ally, DSCC Chairman Chuck Schumer, for his own rental arrangement. The record is clear that Senator Coleman paid fair market value for a cramped basement bedroom, and attacks by Franken’s surrogates won’t change those facts.

Yeah well, while Melanie Sloan did appear on Al Franken's Air America show frequently, CREW is hardly the only organization noticing the cozy relationship between Coleman and Larson.

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