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Ilhan Omar violated campaign finance rules, investigation finds, as more questions about tax filings arise

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By Gregg Re | Fox News

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., repeatedly violated state rules when she used campaign funds to pay for personal out-of-state travel as well as help on her tax returns and must reimburse her former campaign committee nearly $3,500, Minnesota campaign finance officials ruled Thursday.

The Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board said the first-term congresswoman also must pay the state a $500 civil penalty for using campaign money to travel to Florida, where she accepted an honorarium.

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“Rep. Omar must personally reimburse the Omar committee $3,469.23,” the report concludes. “This reimbursement payment is the total amount of campaign funds that were used for purposes not permitted by statute in 2016 and 2017. Rep. Omar must provide documentation within 30 days from the date of this order showing the deposit of the reimbursement into the Omar committee’s account.”

Additionally, conservative commentators pointed out that the Board’s report revealed Omar and her current husband, Ahmed Hirsi, filed joint tax returns in 2014 and 2015, when Omar was reportedly married to another man. Omar engaged in a civil marriage with Ahmed Nur Said Elmi in 2009, and the couple separated in 2011 without formally petitioning for divorce until 2017.

Prior to her marriage with Elmi, Omar had reportedly wed Hirsi in the Muslim “faith tradition,” but the couple separated shortly afterwards. Omar did not officially marry Hirsi until 2018, after reconciling with him and splitting with Elmi.

Tax experts say the IRS only permits joint filings if a couple is in a state that legally recognizes the couple as married.

“Time to get federal IRS officials involved?” asked conservative blogger Michelle Malkin. “What say you all?”

“A sitting congresswoman may have filed EIGHT YEARS of fraudulent, felonious, tax returns,” added writer David Steinberg, who authored a Twitter thread flagging the issue.

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‘The crisis committee had Frederick & Rosen prepare releases for Rep. Omar and Mr. Hirsi to sign in order for Frederick & Rosen to obtain Rep. Omar’s and Mr. Hirsi’s filed joint tax returns for 2014 and 2015,” the report notes. “Frederick & Rosen then reviewed the documents obtained from the Internal Revenue Service on behalf of the Omar committee. However, there is no substantive evidence in the record to show that the services benefitted the Omar committee, and the Omar committee has failed to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the services from Frederick & Rosen were a permitted noncampaign disbursement under Minnesota Statutes section 211B.12. Rep. Omar must reimburse the committee the $1,500 that was paid to the Kjellberg Law Firm for the services from Frederick & Rosen, Ltd.”

That reference to Omar and Hirsi’s joint filing, however, was not investigated or addressed further in the report.

STATE OF MINNESOTA

 1110. There is no substantive evidence in the record to show that the $1,500 paid to Frederick& Rosen, Ltd. was for services that benefited the Omar committee.11. In 2017, the Omar committee paid $337.40 for airfare to Boston so that Rep. Omar couldmake a speech at a unity rally and attend a campaign event for a local city councilcandidate.12. In 2017, the Omar committee paid $1,700.80 for airfare so that Rep. Omar could returnfrom the European Young Leaders conference in Estonia. Rep. Omar’s costs to attendthe conference in Estonia were originally paid for by the conference organizers. Thisconference may have assisted Rep. Omar in performing her legislative duties and herinvitation to the event was due to her status as a legislator. The travel costs paid for bythe Omar committee were related to Rep. Omar missing her return flight due to illness.13. In 2017, the Omar committee paid $581.43 for a hotel stay so that Rep. Omar could givea speech and be interviewed by a young woman from South America at the Girl Up UNconference in Washington, D.C. While Rep. Omar would not have been asked toparticipate in the Girl Up UN Conference had she not been elected to the MinnesotaHouse, she did not attend this event to assist her in her performance of her duties as alegislator.14. In 2017, the Omar committee paid $611.20 for airfare so that Rep. Omar could attend ameeting for the People for the American Way’s America’s Cabinet in New York. WhileRep. Omar would not have been asked to participate in the America’s Cabinet had shenot been elected to the Minnesota House, she did not attend this event to assist her inher performance of her duties as a legislator.15. In 2017, the Omar committee paid $232.20 for airfare so that Rep. Omar could be thekeynote speaker at the National Immigrant Justice Center’s annual Human Rights Awards luncheon and receive the Jeanne and Joseph Sullivan Award. While Rep. Omarwould not have been the recipient of the award or the keynote speaker at the event hadshe not been elected to the Minnesota House, this event was a fundraising event for theNational Immigrant Justice Center. Additionally, she did not attend this event to assisther in her performance of her duties as a legislator.16. In 2017, the Omar committee paid $207 for airfare so that Rep. Omar could be thekeynote speaker at the African Network of Southwest Florida’s Annual Gala. Rep. Omarwas paid $800 for her speech at the event. While Rep. Omar might not have been thekeynote speaker at this event had she not been elected to the Minnesota House, she didnot attend this event to assist her in the performance of her duties as a legislator. 12Based on the above findings of fact, the Board makes the following:Conclusions of law1. The Omar committee’s 2016 year-end report of receipts and expenditures did notinclude a description of the payment to the Kjellberg Law Office sufficient to justify thatpayment as a noncampaign disbursement as required by Minnesota Rules 4503.0900,subpart 3.2. The Omar committee’s 2016 pre-general report of receipts and expenditures did notinclude the Omar committee’s debts of $1,500 to Frederick & Rosen, Ltd. and $750 toDe Leon & Nestor, LLC, in violation of Minnesota Statutes section 10A.20, subdivision 3,paragraph (j), and subdivision 4.3. The Omar committee has failed to meet its burden to prove, by a preponderance of theevidence, that the payment of $1,500 to Frederick & Rosen, Ltd. was a permittednoncampaign disbursement under Minnesota Statutes section 211B.12.4. The Omar committee made an in-kind contribution of $337.40 in airfare to allow Rep.Omar to attend a campaign event in Boston for a local candidate in violation ofMinnesota Statutes section 10A.27, subdivision 9, paragraph (d).5. The Omar committee improperly paid the hotel costs for Rep. Omar’s stay inWashington D.C. to give a speech and participate in an interview by a young woman forthe Girl Up UN conference.6. The Omar committee improperly paid the costs for Rep. Omar’s travel to New York toattend a planning meeting for the America’s Cabinet.7. The Omar committee improperly paid the costs for Rep. Omar’s travel to Chicago toaccept an award at a fundraising luncheon for the National Immigrant Justice Center.8. The Omar committee improperly paid $207 for Rep. Omar’s travel to Florida to receivean honorarium for attending the gala for the African Network of Southwest Florida inviolation of Minnesota Statutes section 211B.12.Based on the foregoing findings and conclusions, the Board issues the following:Order1. The Omar committee must file an amended 2016 pre-general report disclosing theamounts owed for immigration services and obtaining and reviewing the joint tax returns,and must fully describe the purpose of those expenses within ten days of the date of thisorder. 132. Rep. Omar must personally reimburse the Omar committee $3,469.23. Thisreimbursement payment is the total amount of campaign funds that were used forpurposes not permitted by statute in 2016 and 2017. Rep. Omar must providedocumentation within 30 days from the date of this order showing the deposit of thereimbursement into the Omar committee’s account.3. A civil penalty of $500 is assessed against Rep. Ilhan Omar personally for the $207payment in violation of Minnesota Statutes section 211B.12. Rep. Omar must personallypay the $500 by check or money order made payable to the State of Minnesota.Payment must be within 30 days of the date of this order.4. The Omar committee shall review its 2018 year-end reports of receipts and expendituresand make any amendments necessary to ensure that those reports comply with thefindings of fact, conclusions of law, and order contained herein.5. This order resolves the violations discussed above and all other violations that couldhave arisen out of the reports filed by the Omar committee.6. The Board investigation of this matter is concluded and hereby made a part of the publicrecords of the Board pursuant to Minnesota Statutes section 10A.022, subdivision 5./s/ Margaret Leppik Date: June 6, 2019Margaret Leppik, ChairCampaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board

The board found that Omar’s campaign bought her a plane ticket to Boston, where she spoke at a political rally; paid for a hotel in Washington, D.C., where Omar participated in an interview for the United Nations Foundation’s Girl UP conference; and covered her travel to Chicago to accept an award and attend a fundraising luncheon.

Under Minnesota law, campaign trips must be related to serving in office. Omar was a state representative from Minneapolis at the time of the violations. She was elected to the U.S. House last November.

Republican state Rep. Steve Drazkowski initially raised the complaints against Omar, suggesting that she used $2,250 in campaign funds to pay a lawyer for her divorce proceedings. Omar has said those payments to her attorney were campaign-related fees.

The board found the payment was actually reimbursement to two other law firms for work related to immigration and tax documents. The board also determined that $1,500 spent to correct an issue on Omar’s tax return was not a campaign-related expense and must be returned.

According to the board, evidence indicates that the $2,250 was not payment for Omar’s marital dissolution. The board directed Omar to file an amended report with more information about the law firm payments.

Omar had called the claims politically motivated. In a statement, her congressional campaign said she is “glad this process is complete” and that she intends to comply with the board’s findings.

Omar also claimed, “We have been collaborative in this process and are glad the report showed that none of the money was used for personal use, as was initially alleged.”

However, the report specifically found that there was “some personal benefit to Rep. Omar from the [legal] services.”

Drazkowski said in a statement that the results provide “no reassurance to Minnesotans,” and the report “raises even more troubling questions.”

Fox News’ Sam Dorman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

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