Senator Norm Coleman, in the middle of a tight re-election race in Minnesota against Al Franken, got an October Surprise springed on him, courtesy of Ken Silverstein from Harper’s Magazine. The story is about Coleman’s relationship with Minnesota businessman and GOP donor Nasser Kazeminy:
I’ve been told by two sources that Kazeminy has in the past covered the bills for Coleman’s lavish clothing purchases at Neiman Marcus in Minneapolis. The sources were not certain of the dates of the purchases; if they were made before Coleman joined the Senate in 2003, he obviously would not be required to report it under Senate rules. But having a private businessman pay for your clothing is never a good idea if you’re a public official (Coleman was mayor of St. Paul from 1994 to 2002).
Kazeminy did not respond to a request for comment. I’ve been trying unsuccessfully since last week to get Coleman’s press office to give me a direct answer about the matter.
The story hit the Minnesota political press, and they wanted answers immediately. This painful press conference with Coleman campaign manager Cullen Sheehan ensued.
Things were not looking good for Coleman to begin with. Al Franken’s poll numbers have picked up and he’s been getting ahead in recent weeks. After a post-St. Paul convention bounce for John McCain in Minnesota, Barack Obama has been surging in the polls and my guess is Al Franken will be riding his coattails to the U.S. Senate on November 4. The story won’t automatically sink Coleman’s campaign, but it’s an unwelcome distraction that opens up his friendships and business arrangements to further scrutiny.
And for the record – Yes, I did jack the title from The Silence of the Lambs.