Democrats

Good Government Watchdog Zeroes in on Rep. Ilhan Omar’s Book Deal  

The congresswoman, whose memoir was published earlier this year, has not listed book deal on financial disclosure reports 

Ilhan Omar
Ilhan Omar / Getty Images

When Rep. Tim Ryan (D., Ohio) signed publishing agreements to write two books, he noted those agreements on the congressionally mandated financial disclosure reports. House members are prohibited from receiving book advances, and Ryan said he would receive none but reported royalties "based on actual sales consistent with the guidance of the Congressional Ethics Committee." 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) have similarly reported in their disclosure reports receiving book royalties, the latter noting that his royalties went to charity. 

Then there’s freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.), whose 2020 memoir made a splash when it was announced last year: According to Fortune, the deal was valued at between $100,000 and $250,000. But Omar’s 2018 financial disclosure report makes no mention of a book deal; nor does her 2019 report document one. 

That’s the subject of a new complaint from the Foundation for Accountability and Civil Trust, which is asking the House Ethics Committee to investigate the matter. "Federal law requires a member’s financial statement provide a ‘full and complete statement’ of their financial picture, and omitting a significant financial benefit would be a violation of federal law," the complaint states. 

Omar has been a lightning rod on Capitol Hill since her election in 2018. She came under fire for a series of anti-Semitic remarks, alleging that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobbying group, buys politicians’ support for Israel and that pro-Israel lawmakers have "allegiance to a foreign country." Omar subsequently apologized for her comments, saying she needed to be "educated" on the history of anti-Semitism. 

Omar spokesman Jeremy Slevin said in May that the House Ethics Committee had approved Omar’s book deal and that she did not receive any advance payment. 

"The financial disclosure form was for 2019 and she did not receive any form of compensation for the book in 2019, nor did she receive any advance for the book at all," Slevin said. Asked to provide the Ethics Committee approval, Slevin said the documents are not public.

The House Ethics Committee is responsible for greenlighting book agreements. House rules prohibit members from receiving advances, but the Ethics Committee has told members they may receive royalties, which are based on actual book sales. 

Omar’s publisher, Dey Street Books, did not respond to a request for comment. The House Ethics Committee also did not respond to a request for comment. 

It is not the first time the freshman lawmaker’s financial dealings have sparked controversy. The Minnesota Campaign Finance Board found last year that Omar had improperly used campaign funds for personal travel. The board demanded that Omar reimburse her campaign for the expenses, which totaled nearly $3,500, and slapped her with a $500 penalty. 

The previous year, in 2018, Omar was forced to reimburse thousands of dollars in speaking fees in violation of Minnesota state house rules, in what the Minneapolis Star Tribune described as "a pattern of carelessness and/or self-dealing with legally restricted funds." 

Omar has also defended her decision to retain her husband, Tim Mynett, as a campaign consultant and has funneled over a million dollars to his firm in the 2020 campaign cycle alone.