Coleman Hires Attorney Following Allegations of Illegal Money Funneling

Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman has hired an attorney in connection with allegations that a wealthy businessman and longtime friend tried illegally to funnel him $75,000, his campaign spokesman confirmed to

Coleman has denied all allegations stemming from two lawsuits that claim Nasser Kazeminy began in spring 2007 making $25,000 payments from Deep Marine Technology, a Texas oil-drilling company Kazeminy controls, to Minneapolis insurer Hayes Companies Inc., where Coleman's wife, Laurie Coleman, works.

The lawsuits do not claim that Coleman or his wife ever received the alleged payments -- or knew of the alleged plot. But Coleman spokesman Luke Friedrich said Tuesday that the senator has an attorney to work with authorities investigating the claims.

"Senator Coleman has called for an aggressive investigation by the appropriate authorities for these baseless allegations that are nothing more than political and financial extortion," Friedrich said in an e-mailed statement.

"To that end, he has retained counsel to work cooperatively with authorities when such an investigation is conducted and to quickly expose these allegations for what they are and to hold those who made these false allegations against the Senator accountable," Friedrich said.

"To this date, the Senator, nor his legal counsel, have been informed that any such investigation is under way," he added.

Coleman's legal counsel reportedly is Doug Kelley, a top Minnesota criminal defense lawyer and former U.S. attorney.

In recent days, law enforcement officials reportedly have said that the FBI is investigating allegations made in the two lawsuits -- though FBI Special Agent Shauna Dunlap declined to confirm the agency's involvement.

"The FBI does not confirm nor deny the existence of investigations," Dunlap said.

In an interview with last week, Kazeminy's attorney, Amy Rotenberg, called the charges against her client "baseless and unsupported."

"We don't have anything to do with the Coleman campaign," said Rotenberg, who added that Kazeminy is "very hurt by the allegations."

When asked if either she or her client had been contacted by the FBI, Rotenberg said, "We have no information about that. I can't confirm anything."

Paul McKim -- former CEO of Deep Marine Technologies who filed the first of two civil lawsuits in Texas against Kazeminy and 12 other defendants -- declined to give comment to, and referred all inquiries to his attorney Arty Howard.

McKim is listed as one of 13 defendants -- along with Kazeminy -- in the second lawsuit, which was filed in Delaware by shareholders of Deep Marine.

Coleman, a Republican, remains embroiled in a hotly contested U.S. Senate race with Democratic challenger Al Franken. The Republican incumbent held a 188-vote lead over Franken after all precincts concluded their recounts of nearly 2.9 million ballots.

The five-person state canvassing board officiating over the recount began reviewing 1,500 contested ballots on Tuesday in effort to determine which ones, if any, should be counted in the final report.