Lawsuits are flying around the Minnesota Senate race right and left today.
LAWSUIT #1: First, the Huffington Post reports that a lawsuit in Texas against Coleman alleged that a family friend provided $75,000 to the Senator’s family through the friend’s business. If true, that would be a very big deal, but this lawsuit has apparently been withdrawn.
LAWSUIT #2: According to news accounts, Coleman’s has filed a lawsuit alleging he was defamed by Franken, because Franken said Coleman was ranked the fourth most corrupt Member of Congress by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).
Which lawsuit is righteous, and which is frivolous? I have no idea.
It’s worth noting that Coleman has filed similar suits against Senator Paul Wellstone and Attorney General Hubert Humphrey in the waning days of past campaigns, so there’s a fighting chance that this lawsuit may be more about winning in the court of public opinion than winnning in a court of law.
But Franken did seem to make a factual error. Apparently CREW said Coleman was one of the 20 most corrupt Members of Congress (out of 535), a fact Coleman doesn’t seem to dispute. But Coleman does dispute that CREW specifically ranked him fourth.
And lots of crazy lawsuits get filed against incumbents like Coleman in the final week of campaigns, and there is a good chance that the Texas suit lacks merit as well.
Merit aside, I do find this back-and-forth interesting from a public relations standpoint.
First, does it really help Coleman to call in the news media to essentially declare “how dare my opponent say I’ve been named fourth most corrupt, when I’ve only been named as one the 20 most corrupt?!” Is shining the light on a corruption ranking ever a good idea?
Second, if Coleman is innocent, shouldn’t he deny the allegations? Might the mum and run routine (see videoclip above) feed a perception of guilt at a delicate political hour?
Finally, shouldn’t the Star Tribune mention both the pro- and anti-Coleman lawsuits in its coverage? In the current on-line story, only the anti-Franken lawsuit is mentioned.
Post-post postscript: Since the original post, the Star Tribune has published a separate story by investigative reporters Paul McEnroe and Tony Kennedy about the anti-Coleman lawsuit. Hence, the deletion above. The Pioneer Press did a story on the anti-Franken lawsuit, but not the anti-Coleman lawsuit. vat invoice nice