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State Board Orders Ilhan Omar to Reimburse Campaign for Misspent Funds

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D, Minn.) outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., April 10, 2019. (Jim Bourg/Reuters)

Representative Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) spent thousands of dollars of campaign funds on personal expenses in 2016 and 2017 when she was serving in the Minnesota state legislature, the state’s Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board revealed Thursday.

The board ordered Omar to reimburse her former campaign committee for $3,500 in personal accounting and travel expenses, and levied a $500 civil penalty against her for misspending the funds.

The findings are the result of a complaint filed by Republican state representative Steve Drazkowski, which alleged that Omar used campaign funds to cover the legal costs associated with her recent divorce. The board found that Omar did use $2,250 in campaign funds to cover legal fees, but they were unrelated to her divorce.

“The 2016 payment of $2,250 from the Omar committee to the Kjellberg Law Office was not a payment for Rep. Omar’s subsequent marital dissolution,” the report states. “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.”

Ahmed Hirsi is Omar’s current husband. That the couple filed joint returns in 2014 and 2015 may prove legally problematic, since Omar was in those years still legally married to Ahmed Nur Said Elmi, whom she wed in 2009 and did not officially divorce until 2017. While Omar claims she was married to Hirsi in her Muslim “faith tradition” at the time, the IRS does not permit joint filing unless a couple is legally recognized as married by their home state.

In response to the board’s ruling, Omar said that she’s been cooperative through out the process and emphasized that the campaign funds were not used to cover the cost of her divorce, as initially alleged.

“I’m glad this process is complete and that the Campaign Finance Board has come to a resolution on this matter,” Omar said in a statement provided to the Minnesota Tribune. “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.”

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