Coleman can use campaign funds for legal bills

/ Source: The Associated Press

The Federal Election Commission on Thursday ruled that former Sen. Norm Coleman can use campaign money to pay for legal bills to address allegations involving a donor.

The Minnesota Republican can use the money for legal bills linked to two lawsuits that allege a former Coleman donor funneled at least $75,000 to an insurance company that employed Coleman's wife.

The ruling is unrelated to the legal battle between Coleman and Democrat Al Franken, who are fighting in Minnesota's highest court over who won last November's Senate election. The FEC did not address whether money that Coleman has solicited for the recount fight, which are collected in a separate account, can be used for other legal bills.

The suits target Nasser Kazeminy, a donor and Coleman friend. Coleman is not named in them and has denied wrongdoing. The ruling also allows Coleman to use campaign funds to address a related Senate Ethics Committee investigation.

'It's appropriate'
Ben Ginsberg, a lawyer for Coleman, said the ruling was what he expected.

"I think it's consistent with what the FEC has said in the past," Ginsberg said. "He's been dragged into legal proceedings because of his office and so that's why it's appropriate under these FEC precedents."

A former chief executive at Deep Marine Technology, a company owned by Kazeminy, has alleged in a Texas case that Kazeminy funneled $75,000 to an insurance company that employed Coleman's wife, Laurie. Shareholders of Deep Marine Technology in Delaware have filed a suit with nearly identical allegations.

According to a document filed with the FEC, Coleman's lawyers have been preparing him to serve as a witness in both suits.

The FEC doesn't generally allow personal legal fees to be paid with campaign funds, but makes exceptions when a candidate or campaign can show that legal costs are tied to the candidate's position. The FEC's response came after Coleman's legal team filed a request in April seeking an advisory opinion.