Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) and new husband Tim Mynett—who is also her campaign consultant—are downplaying the campaign cash the freshman lawmaker funneled to his consulting firm. But campaign records show that Omar's campaign has been by far the firm's biggest client, funneling more than half-a-million dollars to the group in the 2018 and 2020 election cycles, almost half of all the money the company took in from federal candidates.
Omar and Mynett announced their marriage last Wednesday after vigorously denying they were engaged in a romantic relationship.
Now Omar's campaign and Mynett's firm, the E Street Group, a campaign consultancy for progressives, are defending their professional relationship from critics who have charged that Omar broke the law by improperly using campaign money for personal travel—in particular, to reimburse Mynett’s travel from California to Washington, D.C., to visit Omar.
Mynett’s business partner, Will Hailer, swatted down those criticisms, arguing that Omar is one of the group’s run-of-the-mill clients. "On any given day, eight or more people could be touching her account at some point, between design, digital ads, social media, email content creation, high-dollar fundraising, political support, and many other things that we provide for the campaign," Hailer told the Washington Post. "Similar to what we provide for countless other clients across the country."
A review of campaign finance records, however, found that the firm has just 17 clients and that Omar has been the firm's largest for the entirety of its existence. During the 2018 cycle, Omar paid the E Street Group $62,674 for fundraising consulting and was one of just four of the firm's campaign clients. Omar, who has spent $523,443 in total on the group’s services in the 2020 campaign cycle, remains the firm's largest political client, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.
The E Street Group began operations in 2018 and brands itself as a team of "progressive political consultants working with candidates and causes to tell authentic stories." The group brought in a total of $145,406 in its first cycle and $1,285,994 so far this cycle. The pair have also launched a separate project, estreet.co, which markets itself as a "group of creative-minded hype agents working with start ups, non profits, breweries, vineyards and more."
Aside from Omar, E Street Group's largest political client this cycle has been MATH PAC, a pro-Andrew Yang super PAC that spent the large majority of its money on media purchases, including $475,993 through the E Street Group. Other clients include failed California congressional candidate Cenk Uygur, who spent $6,800 with E Street Group, and about a dozen other liberal candidates and committees.
Hailer and Mynett did not respond to an inquiry into whether Omar remains E Street Group's largest client.
Omar herself is also defending the relationship and the $586,117 her campaign has paid her husband’s firm. In a lengthy Monday night Twitter thread, the lawmaker argued that their romantic relationship began after their professional one.
"My relationship with Tim began long after this work started," Omar wrote. "We consulted with a top FEC campaign attorney to ensure there were no possible legal issues with our relationship. We were told this is not uncommon and that no, there weren’t."
Following divorce filings by Mynett's then-wife last August alleging that her husband was romantically involved with Omar, the National Legal and Policy Center filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission raising questions about the legality of the arrangement. The complaint specifically points to non-itemized travel reimbursements from the Omar campaign to E Street Group and suggests Omar was reimbursing Mynett’s visits with her.
"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," the complaint said.
A lawyer for the Omar campaign is also defending the transactions with Mynett's firm. "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," campaign lawyer David Mitrani said in a legal memo drafted last week.
Omar has lashed out at news reporters for examining the payments.
"It’s disappointing that reporters would rather amplify the baseless claims and misinformation of rightwing Twitter instead of talking to actual experts on the law," she wrote on Twitter. "This is everything wrong with media coverage in 2020."
The response follows a similar pattern from Omar, who has regularly responded to the standard scrutiny of a public official by criticizing the media.
The lawmaker attacked the media last August for asking questions about her relationship with Mynett. "No, I am not," Omar falsely claimed when asked whether she was separated from her husband and dating Mynett. "I have no interest in allowing the conversation about my personal life to continue and so I have no desire to discuss it."
Omar's office also said that no "legitimate media outlets" would look into well-sourced claims that she married her brother, suggesting during her first campaign that any investigations into her are based on racism.
"There are people who do not want an East African, Muslim woman elected to office and who will follow Donald Trump's playbook to prevent it," a campaign spokesman said, months before she was first elected. "Ilhan Omar's campaign will not be distracted by negative forces and will continue to focus its energy on creating positive engagement with community members to make the district and state more prosperous and equitable for everyone."
"Whether by colluding with right-wing outlets to go after Muslim elected officials or hounding family members, legitimate media outlets have a responsibility not to fan the flames of hate," her office said last summer after more evidence arose indicating that she may in fact have married her brother. "Continuing to do so is not only demeaning to Ilhan, but to her entire family."
Omar was reportedly already involved with Mynett at the time of her office's statement. Her office did not reply to new requests for comment.