Al Franken now has another thing in common with the late Senator Paul Wellstone. They’ve both been sued by Senator Norm Coleman shortly before an election.
Franken is running against Coleman in a very expensive US Senate race in Minnesota. Today Coleman’s campaign announced the Senator is suing Franken and his campaign for running ads that are false. The suit is being filed with a Minnesota Office Of Administrative Hearings under a state law that makes disseminating campaign material that is knowingly false.
The Coleman campaign had planned to hold this news conference yesterday, but it was abruptly cancelled after two investigative reporters from the Star Tribune asked Senator Coleman during a campaign stop about a lawsuit involving Coleman’s wife and $75,000 dollars. (Video of the reporters asking the questions can be found here) The Coleman campaign today would not answer The UpTake’s questions about that suit, but did say the lawsuit had been withdrawn.
Reporters also asked about promises the Coleman campaign had made several months ago to provide Senator Coleman’s utility bills, which indirectly is what one of the claims the Franken campaign ads is making when it says Coleman is living in a Washington, DC apartment “nearly rent free”. The Coleman campaign said that issue had been resolved months ago. But reporters reminded Coleman spokesman Mark Drake that he had not sent them the utility bills as promised. Drake conceded he hadn’t and would see what he could do.
Coleman has a habit of suing opponents before an election and then dropping the suit later. In September 2002 he filed a complaint against Sen. Wellstone. The Associated Press reported:
“Coleman’s campaign began the day by announcing it was asking 10 county attorneys to charge Wellstone’s campaign with illegally distorting Coleman’s position on Social Security. In short, Wellstone’s ad says Coleman supports ‘privatizing’ the Social Security system. Coleman says the term doesn’t accurately describe his plan. Democrats countered by calling Coleman compulsively litigious, noting he filed complaints against Hubert H. Humphrey III in the 1998 race for governor over his position on family farms. No charges were brought, and Coleman dropped the charges after the race.” [Associated Press, 9/25/02]
The Coleman campaign today said that suit was dropped because Sen. Wellstone died before the election, which Coleman subsequently won.
In 1998 Coleman filed, and later dropped, an Unfair Campaign Practices Complaint against Skip Humphrey. In November 1998, the Associated Press reported, “Republican St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman’s gubernatorial campaign has dropped the unfair campaign practices complaint he had filed in all 87 counties against DFL rival Hubert Humphrey III. Coleman had accused Humphrey of illegally distorting his position on family farms. He said Humphrey and DFL party Chairman Dick Senese violated the state’s Fair Campaign Practices Act in several ads and statements that portray Coleman as an enemy of family farmers based on comments he made at an August candidate forum.” [Associated Press, 11/25/08]
Hat tip to mnpublius.com for the research on Coleman’s lawsuits.
Coleman’s campaign said it would “follow through” on the current suit against Franken, but would not be specific on what that would mean.