ST. PAUL, Minn. -- U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar violated state rules when she used campaign funds to pay for personal out-of-state travel and help on her tax returns and must reimburse her former campaign committee nearly $3,500, Minnesota campaign finance officials ruled Thursday.
The Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board said the first-term Democratic congresswoman also must pay the state a $500 civil penalty for using campaign money to travel to Florida, where she accepted an honorarium.
The board found Omar's campaign bought a plane ticket to Boston to speak at a political rally; paid for a hotel in Washington, D.C., where Omar participated in an interview for the Girl UP UN conference; and covered her travel to Chicago to accept an award and attend a fundraising luncheon, Minnesota Public Radio News reported.
Under state law, trips must be reasonably related to serving in office. Omar was a state representative from Minneapolis at the time of the violations. She was elected to the U.S. House last November.
Republican state Rep. Steve Drazkowski initially raised the complaints against Omar. He suggested that Omar used $2,250 in campaign funds to pay a lawyer for her divorce proceedings. Omar has said those payments to her attorney were campaign-related fees.
The board found the fee was actually reimbursement to two other law firms for work related to immigration and tax documents. The board also determined that $1,500 spent to correct an issue on Omar's tax return was not a campaign-related expense and must be returned.
According to the board, evidence indicates that the $2,250 was not payment for Omar's marital dissolution. The board directed Omar to file an amended report with more information about the law firm payments.
Omar had called the claims politically motivated. In a statement, her congressional campaign said she is "glad this process is complete" and that she intends to comply with the board's findings.
Drazkowski said in a statement that the results provide "no reassurance to Minnesotans," and the report "raises even more troubling questions."
Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, http://www.mprnews.org