MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A state elections ethics board concluded Thursday that Democratic United States Representative Ilhan Omar misspent more than $3,400 of campaign money while serving in the Minnesota House.
The Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board took up the investigation last fall after Republican State Rep. Steve Drazkowski formerly accused her of violating campaign finance rules. It involved a $2,250 payment made by Omar’s main campaign committee, Neighbors for Ilhan, to Kjellberg Law Office in November of 2016. Drazkowski alleged the payment was made for expenses related to a divorce. He later submitted another complaint alleging Omar misspent campaign funds to attend a rally in Boston to support a local political candidate.
The board’s investigation found $1,500 of the payment to Kjellberg Law Office was in violation of campaign finance rules, but it did not involve a divorce. It was instead for obtaining her immigration records, and for filing joint tax returns with her husband, Ahmed Hirsi, in 2014 and 2015. The remaining funds, $750, were spent for campaign purposes. The board also noted Omar’s committee didn’t report this payment in their 2016 pre-general report of receipts and expenditures.
Investigators also concluded that she misspent just less than $2,000 in total for travel and lodging on five occasions for rallies, fundraisers and events which did not “assist her in her performance of her duties as a legislator.”
Omar is ordered to personally pay back $3,469.23, plus a $500 civil penalty. Neighbors for Ilhan must also file an amended 2016 pre-general report within 10 days.
Her office released this statement late Thursday afternoon:
I’m glad this process is complete and that the Campaign Finance Board has come to a resolution on this matter. 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.
In addition to complying with the Board’s findings, I plan on closing the account from my State House race and distributing the funds to organizations that help train first-time candidates to run for office—so that the next generation of candidates and their teams know how to adequately track and report campaign expenses. I also believe we need to dedicate more resources to our campaign finance agencies—and I look forward to supporting these efforts.