[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/12/16/art.coleman1216.gi.jpg caption="CNN has learned that Sen. Norm Coleman has hired a defense attorney to represent him in two lawsuits against one of Coleman's supporters."]
ST. PAUL, Minnesota (CNN) – Sen. Norm Coleman has hired top Minneapolis-based defense attorney Douglas Kelley to assist with two lawsuits connected to the senator, a representative with Kelley’s office confirmed to CNN.
Coleman, a Minnesota Republican, is fighting to win a second term to the Senate and is currently in the middle of a recount with Democratic challenger Al Franken.
The pair of similar lawsuits accuse wealthy businessman and Coleman supporter Nasser Kazeminy of funneling approximately $75,000 to the senator through his wife Laurie Coleman.
Coleman spokesman Luke Friedrich said he considers these to be "baseless allegations that are nothing more than political and financial extortion."
Friedrich added that Sen. Coleman has retained counsel "to work cooperatively with authorities when such an investigation is conducted, and to quickly expose these allegations for what they are, and to hold those who made these false allegations against the Senator accountable."
"To this date the Senator, nor his legal counsel, have been informed that any such investigation is underway," he said in the statement.
Kazeminy will be represented by fellow well-known Minneapolis-based attorney Joe Friedberg, a representative of his office confirmed to CNN.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune also reports that Mrs. Coleman has also hired her own defense lawyer.
This comes on a day when Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie’s canvassing board begins what could be a long process of reviewing challenged ballots from the hand recount that was recently completed.
At the finish of the recount, Coleman held a slight lead of almost 200 votes over Franken, but the challenges will amount to more than 1500 ballots –- all of which the five member board will sift through in an effort to determine “voter intent.”
The Minnesota race is the final outstanding Senate contest of the 2008 elections.