This is f*cking rich.  This has been the mostly hotly contested and all-out ugliest Senate campaign of the season, and Sen. Coleman has taken the mudslinging to a whole new level.

Sen. Norm Coleman’s campaign, charging that recent Al Franken TV and radio ads contain lies about Coleman, is suing Franken’s campaign for violating state campaign law.

Mark Drake, a Coleman spokesman, said this morning at a State Capitol news conference that statements that Coleman has been named “the fourth most corrupt senator in Washington” and lives in a Washington apartment “almost rent free” are patently false.

“Al Franken has chosen to push the lines of believability far beyond the bounds of truth,” Drake said.

The claim that Coleman ranks fourth among senators in corruption is based on a recent list pulled together by the Washington watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), which lists three senators among “the 20 most corrupt members of Congress” and then gives Coleman “dishonorable mention.”

Does any of this sound familiar?  This isn’t the first time Sen. Coleman has used this tactic late in the home stretch of a campaign.  Sam Stein over at The Huffington Post gives us the details.

During the gubernatorial race in 1998, Coleman filed and later dropped a complaint against his Democratic rival Hubert Humphrey III over an issue of unfair campaign practices. In 2002, the state’s Republican party (operating, ostensibly, on Coleman’s behalf), filed a complaint against then Senator Paul Wellstone, accusing him of inciting “union thugs” to rough up a GOP cameraman. And, again in 2002, the Coleman campaign filed a separate suit against Wellstone for distorting his stance on social security.

Aides to Coleman, speaking Thursday morning at a hastily organized press conference, seemed far more interested in generating political theatrics than they did in explaining a serious legal quibble.

For starters, their complaint was directed at an advertisement that the Franken campaign aired that claimed Coleman was a stooge of oil interests. The spot was standard fare for politics. Indeed, the National Republican Senatorial Committee has done far worse, accusing Franken of writing pornography, laughing at the disabled, humiliating minorities and demeaning women. And even Coleman’s Communications Director Mark Drake acknowledged that the Franken spot was based on “half-truths” (so some of it was accurate?). Only later did he say of the suit:

“It is not a tactic. Sen. Coleman is being falsely attacked. These are flat out falsehoods, this goes beyond the typical tit-for-tat that you see in a campaign… We just want Minnesotans to know, take a look at it. There is one campaign waging a positive campaign…and you have one candidate who will clearly say anything to get elected.”

Waaaaah!  He’s so unfair!

This is the political equivalent of a hissy fit when the numbers look bad.  There’s a definite pattern, this is a definite ploy, and hopefully, Minnesotans will see this stunt for what it is.

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