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.
“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.
‘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.
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.
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.