Minnesota senator stands accused of taking illegal funds from Iranian.
Republican Senator Norm Coleman, whose slim 209-vote lead over Democrat Al Franken is currently being recounted, has been accused of accepting illegal campaign contributions from his longtime friend, Nasser J. Kazeminy.
The Alliance for a Better Minnesota, a pro-labor group, called for an investigation of Coleman after lawsuits were filed in Texas and Delaware. Those lawsuits accused Kazeminy, the chairman of the Minneapolis-based NJK Holding Corp., of illegally channeling money to Coleman through Hays Cos.--an insurance broker in Minneapolis where the senator's wife works. The alliance also alleged that the Iranian businessman was seeking to send at least $25,000 in additional funding.
"These are serious allegations. With all of the news media covering these lawsuits, which state that money was funneled to Norm Coleman, we need to know what actually happened," said Denise Cardinal, the alliance's executive director.
Coleman denied the allegations and said he would "not only welcome such an investigation, but I am eager to have it move forward immediately."
One suit filed on October 27 in Houston by Paul McKim, former chief executive officer at Deep Marine Technology Inc. (DMT), said he was ordered to transfer $75,000 in three separate installments to Hays Cos., an insurance broker in Minneapolis where Colman's wife Laurie is employed.
The suit said, "In March 2007, Kazeminy [a major DMT stockholder] began ordering the payment of corporate funds to companies and individuals who tendered no goods or services to DMT for the stated purpose of trying to financially assist U.S. Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota. He was going to find a way to get money to U.S. Senator Norm Coleman and wanted to utilize DMT in the process."
A subsequent suit filed by DMT shareholders on November 3, alleged the company's controlling shareholders allowed Kazeminy--who has lived in the U.S. for 35 years--and others to "exploit and loot the corporation for their own economic benefit or improper purposes" in a scheme to "disguise improper payments in 2007 of at least $75,000 to the wife of a United States senator for no legitimate business purpose."
That suit added that shareholders were told Kazeminy instructed DMT Chief Financial Officer B.J. Thomas and McKim to send quarterly payments of $25,000 to Coleman "because the senator needs the money." When the men refused, Kazeminy ordered that the payments be directed instead to the Hays Cos. as "service fees."
According to the suit, Thomas, the chief financial officer, was forced to resign and McKim was later fired; Thomas' successor, John Hudgens, allegedly ordered company officials to delete references to the Hays corporation in invoices from DMT in an apparent attempt to cover up the illegal payments.
But Kazeminy, who was awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 2006 by the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations, denied the allegations. Kazeminy's attorney Amy Rotenberg said, "Mr. Kazeminy has always been an exemplary individual and corporate citizen and is deeply offended by these false and reckless claims made by those seeking money."
The Hays Cos., which said it provides risk-management consulting services to DMT, also denied the allegations, calling them "libelous and defamatory."
According to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), Kazeminy has contributed nearly $800,000 to Republican candidates and causes with his wife, Yvonne, contributing an additional $123,000 since 1990. According to Federal Election Commission records, the Iranian-born businessman and his wife have contributed more than $115,000 to Coleman since 2000.
The couple's contributions make them the 19th highest political contributors in Minnesota.
Aside from his chairmanship at NJK, Kazeminy has founded or acquired: Minneapolis Leasing Corporation, XP Systems Corporation, CENTRA Benefit Services, Quorum Group, Inc., Drake ProMetric, Digital Insight Corporation, Certiport, Creative Publishing International, Deep Marine Technology, Content Analyst and Imaging Acceptance Corporation.