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Tough Week for Norm Coleman

Over the weekend, National Journal broke a potentially damning piece on the cozy relationship between Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) and a St. Paul-based GOP operative named Jeff Larson. It seems that not only has Coleman been getting a sweetheart deal ($600 per month) to live in a bedroom of a Washington home owned by Larson, but he’d also missed two rent payments (which he paid retroactively after a National Journal reporter inquired about the arrangement.) The Journal also revealed that Larson was sitting on another of Colman’s rent checks for three months — cashed only after the reporter came on the scene.

Today, The Minnesota Independent, our affiliate site, has a piece noting that a watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, has filed an ethics complaint against Coleman. From TMI:

“Sen. Coleman’s repeated missed rent payments and Mr. Larson’s failure to cash Sen. Coleman’s check suggest that Mr. Larson was not, in fact, necessarily expecting payment,” writes Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, in her letter to the ethics committee. “Moreover, it is unclear whether the $600 rental rate represents the fair market value of the apartment considering other rental rates in the Capitol Hill neighborhood.”

Yesterday the Democratic Party alleged at a press conference that the deal violated the Senate’s ethics rules, which prohibit gifts of greater than $50. The limit rises to $250 for gifts from personal friends. But party chairman Brian Melendez stopped short of saying the DFL would file its own ethics complaint. “We’re still exploring our options,” he said.

Coleman was facing a tough reelection fight before this story broke. Now it just got tougher.

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