According to DFL Chair Brian Melendez Senator Norm Coleman and Vice Presidential Nominee Sarah Palin have several things in common. They both get expensive clothes from the downtown Minneapolis Nieman Marcus store, they’re both Republican and they both are involved with Jeff Larsen. Melendez says there are differences too. Palin buys her clothes legally. Coleman apparently does not.
During the Republican National Convention held in St. Paul, Jeff Larson purchased more than $75,000 worth of clothing for Palin at the Minneapolis Neiman Marcus store. Larson is the Treasurer of Sen. Coleman’s Political Action Committee and also happens to be the landlord of Coleman’s apartment in Washington, DC. Sen. Coleman has paid Larson’s company FLS Connect more than $2 Million for political campaign services.
According to Melendez, a former Neiman Marcus employee and at least one other person have contacted a lawyer Melendez knows to tell him that wealthy GOP donor Nasser Kazeminy paid for several thousands of dollars of Sen. Coleman’s clothing purchased at Neiman Marcus.
Senator Coleman and his staff have given very carefully worded answers to questions about what is now being referred to as “suit gate”. At one point, Coleman’s campaign manager gave the exact same evasive answer 12 times to reporters questions about “suitgate” saying only “The Senator has reported every gift he has ever received”
Below: Melendez answers reporters’ questions and text of his statement from a DFL press release.
More questions from reporters:
DFL Chair Brian Melendez made the following remarks:
What is really going on here? And will Norm Coleman finally give us some direct, honest answers?
Two days ago, we learned that the Republican National Committee lavished $150,000 worth of designer clothes, accessories, makeup, and haircuts on Governor Sarah Palin. We also learned that at least half that sum — just over $75,000 — was spent right here, at Neiman Marcus in Minneapolis, in just one shopping spree.
Then we found out that the spree was paid for by Jeff Larson, Senator Norm Coleman’s closest political confidant and Washington, D.C. landlord, with whom Coleman has deep, longstanding ties. Larson and his firm, FLS-Connect, have been the core of Coleman’s political operation — and Coleman has paid Larson nearly $2 million over years.
And, of course, Larson and his firm are responsible for the anti-Obama smear calls that have been blanketing the country on behalf of the McCain/Palin campaign recently.
To close the loop, there’s the now-famous story that a wealthy businessman, Nasser Kazeminy, has paid for lavish clothing purchases for Senator Coleman and his wife at Neiman Marcus — purchases that have never shown up on Coleman’s Senate ethics reports, as required by law.
To date, Senator Coleman and his campaign have offered only non-denial denials and extremely carefully parsed statements in response to the many questions that this affair has raised. And those so-called answers don’t cut it.
Now 12 days from this election — and with the latest revelations about Senator Coleman’s tangled connections to smear merchants and secretive, lavish gifts at Neiman Marcus — it’s time for some real answers from Norm Coleman, not deceptively worded ones. So I’ll ask some real questions.
First and foremost, yes or no: Has Nasser Kazeminy ever paid for any articles of clothing or accessories — and not only suits — for Senator Norm Coleman at Neiman Marcus?
Second, given Coleman’s close ties to Larson, did Coleman know about Larson’s purchase of clothes and accessories for Governor Palin, and was he involved in setting up her shopping spree?
Third, will Coleman ask Neiman Marcus to release all records pertaining to all clothes, accessories, or other items he may have acquired there, whether he or his wife paid for them or whether Nasser Kazeminy or others paid for them? And will Coleman call on Neiman Marcus to allow its employees to speak freely and without fear of retribution about this issue?
Twelve days out from the election, Minnesotans deserve these answers, and they deserve them now. After all, a jury is about to decide whether Senator Ted Stevens is guilty of not reporting on his Senate ethics reforms valuable gifts that he received. And Senator Robert Torricelli was forced from office for having accepted and not reported thousands of dollars’ worth of Italian suits.
Should Coleman be reelected, Minnesotans do not want to find their senator next year indicted, on trial, or forced from office.
If there is nothing to hide, then we can get right to the facts. But we all know better: there is something to hide.