Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) may have placed herself on the wrong side of the law by mixing work and play on her TikTok account.
The House of Representatives in December deemed the Chinese spyware app too dangerous for staffers to use on official devices due to "security risks." But that hasn't stopped Omar from abusing taxpayer resources to cultivate a TikTok following of nearly 250,000, a watchdog group charged in a complaint Thursday. The group alleges Omar's use of TikTok for both campaign and official activities is a "clear" violation of House ethics rules and demanded that the Office of Congressional Ethics ensure the Democratic lawmaker deletes the app from her government devices.
"These violations are disturbing, and clearly not how members are supposed to be using official resources," said Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust executive director Kendra Arnold. "The law is abundantly clear, and her account and the content posted speak for themselves. These rules are to protect the time, resources, and integrity of official proceedings for those in elected office."
Omar and her fellow "Squad" members are among the few TikTok defenders remaining in Congress as a bipartisan consensus has emerged on the need to ban the Chinese-controlled app. Omar said Tuesday a unilateral ban of the app might violate the First Amendment. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) on Saturday posted a TikTok video saying a ban "just doesn't feel right to me." Ocasio-Cortez serves as an adviser to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, which in December accepted a $150,000 contribution from TikTok, the Washington Free Beacon reported. Another "Squad" member, Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D., N.Y.), last Tuesday also came to TikTok's defense, saying "xenophobia around China" was behind the drive to ban the app.
The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust said Omar's TikTok is, by definition, an official account because she identifies herself in the profile description as a congresswoman from Minnesota's fifth district. Members of Congress are prohibited from using official resources for political purposes, but Omar's TikTok account contains videos of footage on the House floor alongside overtly political videos in which she urges viewers to elect Democratic candidates.
"Posting political content on an official social media account is an abuse of government resources," the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust complaint states. "Rep. Omar's use of her TikTok account and the content posted on that account appear to be clear violations."
Omar posted a TikTok video in January showing her and Ocasio-Cortez whispering a "play-by-play" to each other on the House floor as Republican lawmakers negotiated votes for speaker of the House. In another video filmed from her congressional office, captioned "long days of historic humiliation extended," Omar discussed Republican efforts to elect a speaker.
@ilhanmn Stay civil! Repost from Rep. Jimmy Gomez #playbyplay #speakervote ♬ original sound - Ilhan Omar
The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust said both videos were clearly recorded for political purposes.
"The law is clear and the posts above speak for themselves—there are no facts that can excuse these violations," the complaint states. "In addition to violating the specific laws, her use of official resources does not reflect credibly on the House. Finally, given her use of a TikTok account and government resources, the Office of Congressional Ethics should ensure Omar does not have the banned app installed on any government devices."
Omar's office did not return a request for comment.