For the third time this year, Fifth District DFL congressional candidate Ilhan Omar stands accused of financial improprieties that violate either Minnesota House rules or state campaign finance laws. The latest complaint — from the same source as the first two, Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa — alleges that DFL state Rep. Omar impermissibly used about $3,000 in campaign funds for several trips, including one to Estonia.
Drazkowski also revealed Tuesday that one of his earlier complaints — that Omar had used campaign funds for legal costs associated with her marriage dissolution — is under investigation by the state Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board. The board found probable cause in August to proceed with a thorough review, which evidently is still in progress. Omar denies that charge, saying that the legal fees she paid to attorney Carla Kjellberg in August and September 2016 were compensation for crisis management services to her state House campaign.
The earliest of Drazkowski’s three complaints faulted Omar for accepting a speaking fee from Minnesota State Colleges and Universities in violation of state House rules. Omar has reimbursed the three campuses in question $2,500 of the $2,750 that was at issue, Drazkowski said Tuesday.
Omar’s response to the latest accusation has been terse. On Wednesday, her campaign spokeswoman issued this statement: “We are aware of Rep. Drazkowski’s continued requests to the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board to review prior year filings and refer any questions about the review to the board.”
That’s not sufficient. Omar owes a fuller explanation to Fifth District voters — and soon. Voters deserve to hear Omar’s response before the Nov. 6 election that will fill the seat that opened when six-term U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison opted to seek the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office this year.
To be sure, the sum of money in question in any one of these accusations is small. But together, the charges suggest a pattern of carelessness and/or self-dealing with legally restricted funds. Neither conclusion inspires the confidence voters deserve to have in someone they send to the U.S. House to represent them. Omar may be a DFLer running for a safe DFL seat, but she is still accountable to the voters. And as other contests in this year’s contentious campaign season illustrate, avoiding accusations of wrongdoing does not make them go away.