Rep. Ilhan Omar fined $500 over campaign finance violations

She has been ordered to reimburse her campaign $3,469.
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Minnesota's 5th District Rep. Ilhan Omar has been fined $500 and ordered to repay her campaign almost $3,500 for campaign finance violations during her 2016 state House race.

The order from the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board was released on Thursday, which stemmed from complaints submitted by Minnesota Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R–Winona).

One of the main allegations made by Drazkowski was that Omar had used $2,250 from the Neighbors for Ilhan campaign account, described as "legal fees," to pay law firm Kjellberg Law Office for the dissolution of her marriage.

It turns out that Carla Kjellberg had been hired to represent Omar in the 2017 dissolution of her marriage to Ahmed Elmi, which whom she had gotten married in 2009 but separated from in 2011.

However, Kjellberg and the law firm had also been hired to act as a "crisis committee" on behalf of the Omar campaign.

This happened because in August 2016 Omar became the target of online smears that she had been married to her brother, as well as false claims that her immigration status was under investigation.

"Based on the analysis ... the preponderence of the evidence indicates that the $2,250 paid to the Kjellberg Law Office was not payment for Rep. Omar’s marital dissolution," the report says.

However, Drazkowski is claiming that the report instead reveals a potential case of tax fraud against Omar, as it details that she and Ahmed Hirsi, whom she married "in the faith tradition" and who is father of her children, filed joint tax returns in 2014 and 2015.

He suggests that it's not legal to file joint returns in such a situation.

The campaign finance violations

The board found that as part of that $2,250 payment to the Kjellberg Law Office, $1,500 of that was paid to another law firm, Frederick & Rosen, for a reason the board found violated campaign rules.

Frederick & Rosen had been hired to obtain copies of the 2014 and 2015 joint tax returns filed by Omar and Hirsi as part of the crisis response.

The board found there was "no substantive evidence in the record to show that the services [provided by Frederick & Rosen] benefitted the Omar committee," with Omar ordered to reimburse the campaign $1,500.

The Omar committee also failed to disclose the $2,250 of payments to Kjellberg in its pre-general reports of receipts and expenditures, while the board also found its description as "legal fees" in its year-end report for 2016 to be insufficient.

Another violation concerned a payment of $337.50 for flight tickets to Boston in 2017.

Omar initially flew to Boston to speak at a Unity Rally, which was then canceled, and instead she spoke at a rally for a Boston City Council candidate.

Minnesota laws state lawmakers can't make  "a contribution from the principal campaign committee to a candidate for political subdivision office in any state."

Another violation was claiming $581.43 for a hotel stay in Washington D.C. when Omar gave a speech at a UN leadership conference for girls.

Getting reimbursed from her campaign was a violation, the board found, as her participation "did not assist Rep. Omar in the performance of her duties as a legislator."

This was the same reason a $611.20 airline ticket to New York to attend a Young Elected Officials conference was an erroneous disbursement from campaign coffers, as well as $232.20 for flights to Chicago for a Human Rights Awards luncheon, and $207 flights to Fort Myers to attend the African Network of Southwest Florida’s Annual Gala.

The board found that several other alleged campaign disbursement violations submitted by Drazkowski had actually been designated correctly.

As well as reimbursing her campaign and paying a $500 fine, the Omar committee must re-file its pre-general report.

In a statement issued after the board's findings, Omar said she is "glad the process is complete," and said she plans to close the bank account from her State House race and give the money to organizations that train first-time candidates.

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