The Minnesota Campaign Finance Board (CFB) is looking into a complaint that state Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minneapolis) may have improperly used campaign resources for personal travel expenses.
State Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa) recently filed a complaint with the CFB based on findings in the 2017 year-end report for Omar’s campaign committee. The report showed over $3,000 in travel-related disbursements, including airfare to Estonia and travel expenses to Massachusetts so Omar could speak at a rally for a Boston City Council candidate.
Now Drazkowski says the CFB has notified him of an upcoming hearing to determine whether probable cause exists for Omar’s use of campaign resources for personal travel expenses.
“Once again, I’m pleased the Campaign Finance Board is taking this seriously, because Representative Omar’s repeated misuse of the public’s funds – and trust – is a significant problem,” Drazkowski said.
According to Drazkowski, the CFB’s initial response to the complaint finds that the Omar Committee’s 2017 year-end report “shows several noncampaign disbursements for out-of-state travel” and the information “does not indicate how attendance at these events would have helped Rep. Omar in the performance of her legislative duties.”
Under state law, money collected for political purposes may not be converted to personal use. In addition, the CFB’s Candidate Handbook specifies what constitutes “reasonable costs of serving in office” that may be covered by campaign committee funds. “Trips for general fact-finding and relationship building” does not fall under that provision, according to the handbook.
This is the second complaint against Omar that the CFB is looking into. Earlier this year, Drazkowski filed a complaint against Omar’s committee for using campaign money to pay legal fees to her divorce attorney. The CFB recently told Drazkowski that probable cause exists in his complaint and that a formal investigation was underway.
The complaints against Omar came up during a Minnesota Public Radio debate Tuesday. When pressed on the matter, Omar slammed Drazkowski as an “overzealous” legislator and labeled the findings as an effort to “smear and discredit my candidacy.”
“The truth is, I have never been really been cited for any campaign finance violation,” Omar said.
In addition to the complaints being investigated by the CFB, Omar has also been cited for campaign finance violations related to late filings of campaign finance reports and a statement of economic interest. Drazkowski reports Omar has been fined more than $2,000 for those violations.
Drazkowski responded to Omar’s personal attacks saying that the “true victims are the taxpayers whose money appears to be illegally wasted.”
“Instead of attacking me for bringing up her growing list of violations, Representative Omar needs to recognize that campaign finance rules are made to be followed, not bent in order to personally benefit herself,” Drazkowski said. “Representative Omar is not a victim here; the true victims are the taxpayers whose money appears to be illegally wasted.”