Report: Ilhan Omar cited for campaign finance violations as questions about tax returns grow

June 7, 2019

Ilhan Omar is wrapped up in controversy again: this time over campaign finance violations and tax fraud.

According to a Thursday report from Minnesota campaign officials, Omar filed taxes jointly with her current husband when she was reportedly still married to her first spouse, potentially running afoul of the law. Omar also owes her former state campaign, and the state of Minnesota, roughly $4,000 after the campaign officials ruled that she broke campaign finance laws by making illegal expenditures on unrelated personal travel and personally benefiting from legal services paid for by the campaign.

“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.”

Possible tax fraud

The Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board issued a report laying out the findings of its investigation into Omar’s campaign expenses during the time she was a state representative. The board ruled that Omar is obligated to repay roughly $3,500 to her former campaign committee and another $500 to Minnesota for an illegal trip to Florida.

The report states that Omar also spent campaign money on legal services to help with tax returns that she filed jointly in 2014 and 2015 with her current husband, Ahmed Hirsi. Omar did not marry Hirsi until 2018.

The pair took vows in a religious ceremony in 2002, but split in 2008 in order for Omar to marry another man, Ahmed Nur Said Elmi, in 2009. Omar ceremonially divorced Elmi in 2011, but remained legally married until 2017. She entered a relationship with Hirsi again in 2012.

The IRS follows a state’s lead law when assessing legal marriages, and for a joint filing to be permissible, the marriage in question needs to be considered legal in the state where the couple resides.

The investigation was launched after a complaint from Minnesota state Rep. Steve Drazkowski, a Republican, who claimed that Omar misused campaign money for divorce proceedings. The board’s report found that Omar spent roughly $2,250 on legal services sought by a “crisis committee” that Omar formed to address allegations that she married her brother in an “immigration scheme.”

“The $2,250 payment was a reimbursement for two payments made by the Kjellberg Law Office. One payment of $750 was made to De Leon & Nestor, LLC for obtaining immigration records and one payment of $1,500 was made to Frederick & Rosen, Ltd. for services related to Mr. Hirsi’s and Rep. Omar’s filed joint tax returns of 2014 and 2015,” the report stated.

Campaign finance trouble

Omar’s committee obtained legal help from Kjellberg Law Office to respond to the onslaught of allegations about her marital status. The law firm received two payments amounting to $2,250 for Omar’s immigration records and legal help with her tax filings. The board found that the $750 payment for Omar’s immigration records benefited her campaign, but a $1,500 payment to settle a problem with her joint tax returns inured to Omar’s exclusive personal benefit.

“The Omar committee has failed to meet its burden to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the payment of $1,500 to Frederick & Rosen, Ltd. was a permitted noncampaign disbursement under Minnesota Statutes section 211B.12,” the report states.

There was no prior disclosure from the committee about what the $2,250 was for, only that it went toward legal services. The board ordered Omar to provide amended forms explaining the expenditures within 10 days.

The board also discovered that Omar took numerous personal trips at her campaign’s expense that had little to do with public office. Omar took out-of-state trips to attend political rallies and accept awards using campaign money. Minnesota law requires campaign expenditures to be relevant to public service.

Drazkowski said in a statement that the report provides “no reassurance to Minnesotans,” and “raises even more troubling questions.” Omar said that she would be closing the state campaign committee account, but falsely claimed that “none of the money was used for personal use.”

“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,” Omar said.

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Matthew Boose

Matthew Boose is a staff writer for Conservative Institute. He has a Bachelor's degree from Stony Brook University and has contributed to The Daily Caller and The Stony Brook Press.