The Minneapolis Star-Tribune editorial board is growing tired of the constant controversies surrounding freshman lawmaker Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.).
"Every month seems to bring a fresh problem" with Omar, the board wrote, after she agreed to repay $3,500 and $500 fines following an investigation into misuse of campaign funds. The Campaign Finance Board found Omar had filed a joint tax return with a man when she was legally married to another at the time.
"Omar’s political rise has been marred by a series of unforced errors, including intemperate remarks and tweets earlier this year that were widely perceived as anti-Semitic," the board wrote. "Every month seems to bring a fresh problem."
The board said Omar's tax discrepancy was potentially serious enough to merit further investigation:
It’s against the law in Minnesota to file jointly unless one filer is legally married to the other. Last year Omar told the Star Tribune that she had married her partner "in her faith," and had earlier divorced her first husband "in her faith." That’s fine for religious purposes. But for tax purposes, only civil marriages qualify. It’s not known whether she benefited materially by filing jointly. That is something that voters, who are obliged to follow tax laws no matter how painful, are entitled to know.
It’s not too much to expect that a lawmaker would check with a tax attorney on a rather complicated marital status before filing.
If this pattern continues, further investigation may be necessary. Omar could have avoided nearly every infraction by taking simple measures in advance to determine whether her actions would pass legal muster. In its findings, the board noted that Minnesota "House Research staff did explain that generally when they discuss whether a member can accept something of value, for example, travel and lodging reimbursement … they discuss whether that would violate the gift prohibition," but do not advise. "Rather, they commonly refer members to the Board. The Omar committee did not contact Board staff … on the appropriateness of using committee funds for the travel reviewed in this investigation."
It's not Omar's first financial transgression, either. She had to return $2,500 in speaking fees while a member of the Minnesota State House for accepting money from groups with business before the legislature.
The editorial board said Omar owed her constituents better, given her status as one of the Democratic Congress's most visible new members. She is the first Somali-American elected to Congress, but she has made a series of anti-Semitic and other controversial remarks while in office.
Omar has accused AIPAC of paying American politicians to be pro-Israel and invoked the dual-loyalty canard in suggesting support for Israel amounted to "allegiance to a foreign country." She was criticized for referring to the 9/11 attacks as "some people did something," and she also blamed the U.S. for the collapse of the socialist regime in Venezuela.
The board did not endorse Omar in her Democratic primary fight for the Fifth District's nomination, choosing Margaret Anderson-Kelliher. Omar won the nomination and easily won the general election in the heavily Democratic district, which has been in Democratic-Farmer-Labor party hands since 1963. She is one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, along with Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.).