Circumstantial Journalism

myfox-twin-cities-exclusive_-coleman_s-renovation-project-coincides-with-lawsuitWhen a Republican CEO from another state alleges that a Minnesota Republican Senator has received $75,000 in laundered money from a supporter, that allegation is newsworthy. But when the alleged event happens to have occurred in the same time period when the Senator was investing in his home, that strikes me as irrelevant information.

The local Fox affiliate sees it differently. It did a breathless story last night noting that Coleman had been remodeling his home and had encountered a cost overrun at the same time as the cash was allegedly being funneled from Texas-based Deep Marine Technologies to Coleman. Fox’s follow-up story, and the hyped versions of it on places like Huffington Post, are unfair to Coleman. Pointing out the remodeling timing tells us nothing about whether the original allegations are true or false. It is good grist for the conspiracy mongers, but this circumstantial evidence sheds more heat than light.

breaking-news-and-opinion-on-the-huffington-postIn an even bigger stretch, Fox pointed out that the interior designer who worked on the remodeling project was, gasp, a friend and supporter of Coleman. The odd inclusion of this irrelevant fact inferred there was something unsavory about that. Am I missing something? Is there something illegal or unethical about people hiring friends and supporters for home projects? If so, lots of us are guilty of the same crime.

Holy hyperventilation. The Texas CEO’s allegations are very serious, and reporting that actually helps us understand whether the allegations are true or false is welcomed. But reporters should stick to evidence directly relevant to the allegations, instead of hyping the allegations with lighter than air motive theories. This didn’t pass the smell test.

– Loveland

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Deep-Sixing Deep Marine’s Accusations

man-with-pile-of-paper1If the accusation of Deep Marine Technology CEO Paul McKim that money was funneled from a supporter of Senator Norm Coleman to the Senator is false, Coleman might consider saying something like this:

“I am a public figure, so I understand people will take potshots at me and my family. I don’t like it, but I am a big boy, and I do understand it.

I want to assure Minnesotans that Mr. McKim’s accusations are not true.

But I do understand that I can make that assurance until I’m blue in the face, and fair minded Minnesotans will still have doubts. I do understand why Minnesotans might be confused about who is telling the truth, and who is lying. If I were you, I might be confused too, because there is no proof being offered by either side.

Well, Minnesotans deserve more than red-faced charges and counter-charges. They deserve evidence. Here is the evidence proving Mr. McKim’s accusations false. It is all contained in a heavily documented defamation suit I am filing today against Mr. McKim. I will also turn this information over to the Senate Ethics Committee and ask them to rule on the matter as soon as possible. Finally, I am posting all of this information on my website, for all Minnesotans to see. I’m not wild about doing that, but I want my family to have it’s good name back.

To show my wife’s pay didn’t spike $75,000 during her time with Hays, I want all of Minnesota to see her pay stubs from the last two years. To show that $75,000 never magically appeared in any of my bank accounts, I am providing our bank records. To show that the accusations that she has done no work for her pay are hurtful lies, I want Minnesotans to see the documentation of the specific accounts she has been working on, and the statements from her supervisors and colleaues describing her work. And to allow you to further probe for the truth yourself, Mr. Kazeminy and my wife’s supervisors and colleagues from Hays will answer your questions today.

Having to do this makes me angry, and sad for my wife and kids. They don’t deserve this garbage. But I work for the people of Minnesota, and I understand why these accusations would at first blush be concerning to them. So I am providing evidence to put Minnesotans’ minds at ease. The people of Minnesota are my bosses, and they deserve proof that I haven’t violated their trust. While Mr. McKim supplies only wild, unsubstantiated claims, I will supply proof. It’s time to put this matter to rest.”

Yes, it would feel unjust and ooky to have so much of your information out there. Yes, the lawyers would object mightily to introducing actual documents into the court of public opinion. But if you want to restore your reputation in a hurry, extreme transparency would do it.

– Loveland

Can Deep Marine’s Deep Throat Be Trusted?

Whistleblower or political attack dog?
Republican Deep Marine CEO Paul McKim: Heroic whistleblower, political attack dog, or disgruntled business associate?
Deep Marine’s Republican CEO Paul McKim says Senator Norm Coleman’s friend and supporter Nasser Kazeminy directed McKim and Deep Marine CFO B.J. Thomas to funnel $100,000 in corporate money to the Coleman family through another company, Hays Companies. Yesterday Kazeminy finally issued a statement, saying essentially, “nuh-uh,” in non-specific terms.

This statement arrived very late, more than a week after the controversy was front page news. And it doesn’t say much. Sometimes people in Kazeminy’s position can’t say much because of legal constraints, and sometimes they can’t say much because allegations are true. Whatever is going on behind the scenes, Kazeminy’s statement doesn’t solve the mystery.

I wouldn’t be shocked to learn that Texans McKim and Thomas are being reckless with the truth, perhaps to gain leverage over Kazeminy over other business disagreements. I also wouldn’t be shocked to learn that Kazeminy is being untruthful, to keep himself out of hot water.

But they can’t both be telling the truth. While a lot of people thought this lawsuit would be over as soon as the election was over, it looks no closer to being resolved than the election itself.

– Loveland

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Judicial Jujutsu

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.

– Loveland

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