Man at center of Coleman lawsuit denies allegations

Coleman denies allegations
U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman denied allegations in a lawsuit that a friend and donor funneled $75,000 to an insurance company that employs Coleman's wife.
MPR Photo/Dan Gunderson

Nasser Kazeminy, the man accused of trying to funnel money to Sen. Norm Coleman, denied the allegations Monday through a spokeswoman.

"He vehemently denies the claims," spokeswoman Amy Rotenberg said in a brief telephone interview. Rotenberg, a lawyer, says she's both a spokeswoman for Kazeminy and part of his legal team.

Two lawsuits filed last month allege that Kazeminy, a friend and donor of Coleman's, funneled $75,000 to Coleman's wife's company to help out the Republican senator. Both Coleman and the company, Minneapolis-based Hays Companies, denied the allegations. Kazeminy has kept a low profile and hasn't commented personally on the lawsuits.

In a statement, Rotenberg added that Kazeminy declined to respond to the allegations before the election "out of profound respect for the election process. He waited for the election to be over in order that his statements would not be perceived as 'electioneering."'

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"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," she said. "It is his hope that when all inquiry is completed, the facts are known, and the lawsuit eventually dismissed, the truth will be as prominently reported as have been these false claims."

Paul McKim, founder and former CEO of Houston-based Deep Marine Technology, claimed that Kazeminy pressured the company to make payments to Hays Companies - the employer of Laurie Coleman, who is a licensed insurance broker. Kazeminy and his companies are the single largest shareholder in Deep Marine Technology, the suit says.

McKim claims that Kazeminy told the company's chief financial officer that "U.S. senators don't make (expletive deleted)," and that he was going to use Deep Marine Technology to get money to Coleman. McKim said that when he objected, Kazeminy threatened to fire him, saying "this is my company," and forced him to approve the first payment of $25,000 to Hays Companies.

McKim said he refused to approve any other payments, but that two additional $25,000 payments were made without his approval. He said he found out about the fourth one as it was being processed and stopped it.

A second lawsuit, filed by minority shareholders of Deep Marine Holdings (which owns Deep Marine Technology), made similar allegations. That suit named both McKim and Kazeminy, among others, as defendants. Neither suit names Coleman or his wife as defendants.

The suits were filed right before the election, which ended up with Coleman holding a slim lead over DFL rival Al Franken, triggering a recount. Coleman had called the claims "false and defamatory" and "sleazy politics" aimed at derailing his re-election. McKim's lawyer, Casey Wallace, has said that the election had nothing to do with the suit's timing. Wallace did not immediately return telephone messages left Monday seeking comment.

Hays Companies says that it provides risk management consulting services to Deep Marine Technology, but that Laurie Coleman received no money related to those services; McKim's lawsuit alleges that no one at Hays has ever provided any services or products to Deep Marine Technology.

In personal financial disclosure forms filed in 2006 and 2005, Coleman listed receiving gifts of travel from Kazeminy valued at $3,960 and $2,870, respectively. Kazeminy has also been a generous donor to Coleman's political campaigns.

Rotenberg, the wife of University of Minnesota general counsel Mark Rotenberg, is principal of Rotenberg Associates LLC, of Minneapolis. Her company Web site says that "she specializes in helping clients who find themselves at the intersection of legal claims, regulatory attacks and media scrutiny."