Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) was found by the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board on Thursday to have committed several campaign finance violations — and its findings have revived old questions about the legality of her marriage.
In July 2018, Minnesota State Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa) filed a complaint with the board against the Neighbors for Ilhan (Omar) campaign committee, which had supported her campaign for state representative. He claimed that she had improperly spent campaign funds on legal work related to her divorce. He later filed additional complaints that she had improperly spent campaign funds on out-of-state travel.
The board’s investigation into Omar found several violations. It noted that while none of Omar’s legal expenses had been for her divorce, she had spent $1,500 on legal expenses related to her personal taxes that were not sufficiently related to the campaign. Furthermore, the board found that some of her out-of-state travel expenses were not related to her legislative duties. She has been ordered to pay reimbursements to her campaign, to file amended campaign finance statements, and to pay a civil fine of $500 to the state.
The board’s report also noted that Omar and Ahmed Hirsi, her current husband, “filed joint tax returns for 2014 and 2015.” That could add fuel to persistent allegations that Omar had been married to two men at the same time — one of whom, Ahmed Nur Said Elmi, City Journal noted in 2016, was rumored (though never proven) to be her brother.
City Journal, the Powerline blog, and PJ Media’s David Steinberg, among others, continued to investigate the story.
Omar issued a statement in 2016 denying the allegations:
In 2002, when I was 19 years old, Ahmed Hirsi (whose name before he received citizenship was Ahmed Aden), the father of my children and love of my life, and I, applied for a marriage license, but we never finalized the application and thus were never legally married. In 2008, we decided to end our relationship in our faith tradition after reaching an impasse in our life together.
I entered into a relationship with a British citizen, Ahmed Nur Said Elmi, and married him legally in 2009. Our relationship ended in 2011 and we divorced in our faith tradition. After that, he moved home to England. I have yet to legally divorce Ahmed Nur Said Elmi, but am in the process of doing so. Insinuations that Ahmed Nur Said Elmi is my brother are absurd and offensive.
Since 2011, I am happy to say that I have reconciled with Ahmed Hirsi, we have married in our faith tradition and are raising our family together.
The rumors persisted into the 2018 election, when Omar was elected to Congress. She toldthe Minneapolis Star Tribune that the stories had been written by “fake journalists on bigoted blogs.”
The campaign finance board’s report notes that Omar filed joint tax returns with Hirsi. But by her own admission in 2016, she was not yet legally divorced from Elmi. There is no legal basis for a joint filing by an unmarried couple.
In a statement, Drozkowski noted that the campaign finance board’s findings had found Omar violated campaign finance law and noted that the report “raises even more troubling questions.”
Update: Rep. Omar responded to the report in a statement quoted by the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
Omar said in a prepared statement that she would comply with the findings.
“I’m glad this process is complete and that the Campaign Finance Board has come to a resolution on this matter,” Omar said. “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.”
While Omar’s statement suggests “none of the money was used for personal use,” the report says that “there was some personal benefit to Rep. Omar from the [legal] services” related to her tax returns.