Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., speaks to witnesses during a House Committee on the Judiciary‚ Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship and Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations joint hearing on the administration’s ‘Muslim ban’ on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Rep. Ilhan Omar’s (D-MN) recent marriage to Timothy Mynett has brought questions about the lawmaker’s campaign back into the spotlight. In August, the campaign fell under scrutiny when certain details about the team’s spending were revealed, and it appears this issue isn’t going away anytime soon.
This Wednesday, the representative announced that she had married her boyfriend, who is also the co-founder of a firm that her campaign hired to perform services including advertising, fundraising, and communications. This announcement comes about five months after the lawmaker filed for divorce from her former husband amid allegations that she was carrying on an extramarital affair with the consultant. Two months before Omar’s divorce, Mynett’s then-wife filed for separation, accusing him of being “romantically involved” with the representative.
According to The Washington Post, the lawmaker’s campaign paid about $586,00 since 2018 to Mynett’s firm. The payments were ostensibly for services related to her election. Yes, you read that right. They spent over a half a million dollars with Mynett’s company, which constitutes 40% of the campaign’s total expenditures. It also paid the consultant $7,000 personally for service performed before they hired his firm.
Not surprisingly, Omar’s campaign denies any wrongdoing whatsoever, claiming that the payments were not inappropriate because they constituted compensation for legitimate work. Will Hailer, a partner, and co-founder of E Street Group, Mynett’s firm, told The Washington Post that there was nothing untoward about the payments.
David Mitrani issued a memo on Thursday defending the relationship with E Street Group. “There is simply nothing unusual about the services that E Street Group provides to Ilhan for Congress — and nothing inappropriate with a vendor being reimbursed for travel for bona fide services — even if that vendor is run by a candidate’s spouse,” he wrote.
It is illegal for a campaign to use its funds for personal purposes. Federal law requires that all funds are used to pay for services designed to support a candidate’s campaign. “Generally, the rationale is, as long as they’re doing real work, you can pay them as you’d pay anyone else. You can’t overpay them. It can’t be a no-show job or a low-show job. You have to actually do the work,” said Daniel Petalas, former acting general counsel for the Federal Elections Commission (FEC).
In August 2019, the National Legal and Policy Center filed a complaint alleging that the payments to E Street Group should be “considered personal in nature” because of the relationship between the two individuals. The complaint argues that “If Ilhan for Congress reimbursed Mynett’s LLC for travel so that Rep. Omar would have the benefit of Mynett’s romantic companionship, the expenditures must be considered personal in nature.”
It’s easy to see how the campaign’s spending could raise more than a few eyebrows. It’s difficult to imagine that all of the activities for which the consultant was being paid were legitimate business expenditures. As RedState’s Nick Arama pointed out, “One of the more striking aspects is that Omar may have flouted campaign finance law to funnel money to her lover’s company, either to help enrich him, to keep him around, or both.”
The FEC was unable to follow up with the complaint because one of its commissioners resigned, meaning the agency has not been able to function since then. A four-person quorum is required to make decisions on cases like Omar’s, and with the resignation, the group is down to three members. But it appears that this may not be an issue for much longer as the Senate is preparing to vote on the latest nominee.
When the FEC is back in action, it is likely that more attention will be drawn to this potential scandal. If the campaign didn’t cover its bases, then it could be in for a world of hurt, and may even cause political damage to the lawmaker, who is seeking re-election in November.
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