The Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board last week ordered Rep. Ilhan Omar to reimburse $3,469.23 in campaign funds that were improperly directed to accounting expenses and out-of-state travel. She must also pay a $500 civil fine.
Specifically, the board found that Omar made a $1,500 payment to her lawyer, which was used to reimburse the accounting firm Frederick and Rosen Ltd. The payment was made so the campaign committee could independently obtain Omar’s tax returns and rebut a blogger’s accusation that she married her brother.
“During the investigation, the Omar committee provided responses explaining that after Rep. Omar won the primary for Minnesota House of Representatives District 60B in August 2016, a blog posted an article with allegations that Rep. Omar was not married to the person she referred to as her husband, and that she was actually married to her brother as part of an immigration scheme,” it explained in the report published by the State of Minnesota board. “The Omar committee created a crisis committee to respond to the allegations.”
According to the report, this crisis committee included Carla Kjellberg, an attorney who represented Omar and the Omar committee with respect to the crisis. Kjellberg also represented Omar in her divorce.
“Kjellberg and some in the crisis committee believed that the allegations required a response and that they needed to see what was in Rep. Omar’s immigration and financial records in order to prepare that response,” explained the report.
During that process, the accounting firm flagged some errors in Omar’s tax returns, which according to state statutes is an improper personal benefit from a campaign expense, the board determined.
Omar also violated campaign finance rules when she used committee funds for some out-of-state travel expenses.
“In the course of the investigation, participation by the Omar committee was both voluntary and cooperative,” the board report read.
In a statement, Omar said she would pay back her campaign committee, as directed.
“I’m glad this process is complete and that the Campaign Finance Board has come to a resolution on this matter,” she said.
Minnesota statutes provide that “use of money collected for political purposes is prohibited unless the use is reasonably related to the conduct of election campaigns, or is a non-campaign disbursement,” as defined by the state’s statues.
The board began investigating Omar after it received complaints from Republican state Rep. Steve Drazkowski in July and October of 2018.