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Sen. Jim Norman says he knew all along along the feds would "find nothing" in investigation

We caught up today with Tampa Sen. Jim Norman, who last month was cleared of wrongdoing by federal investigators for his financial connection to a longtime political contributor.

U.S. Attorney Robert E. O'Neill announced Nov. 21 that his office had closed a more-than-year-long federal investigation into the former Hillsborough County commissioner's relationship with Ralph Hughes, a local political activist and businessman who died in 2008.

"I always felt they would find nothing," Norman said. "I went through a strenuous review with my attorney. We clearly felt there was nothing there."

Some background: Hughes gave Norman's wife, Mearline, $500,000 to buy an Arkansas lakefront vacation home in 2006 while Norman was on the commission. Norman has maintained he was not involved in the deal. Hughes' son, Shea, has testified that the $500,000 was a loan to Mearline payable to the Hughes' family trust.

Norman said today he has not talked to Shea Hughes in months, and that he would not pay him back because "it's not my money. That's this whole thing."

Norman said O'Neill's office examined a decade's worth of his financial dealings during the investigation.

"Try everybody going through what I went through and see how many people come out clean," he said.

Norman said the state ethics commission has been reviewing the same complaint against him. "I believe that there's been reviews. They have to. They have to review. But it's the same complaint."

He doubted the commission's conclusion would be different from the feds'.

"(The US Attorney's office has) sub poena powers that nobody has, and they have the manpower that nobody has and they've looked at everything. How do you think ethics people can really find -- there's nothing there."