Rep. Omar ordered to reimburse campaign committee

State board finds spending violations

By Clare Foran, CNN
Alex Wong/Getty Images

U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar

The Minnesota Campaign Finance Board ruled on Thursday that Rep. Ilhan Omar violated state campaign finance rules by improperly using campaign money for out-of-state travel while serving as a state representative.

The board ordered Omar to reimburse her campaign committee roughly $3,500 and is also fining her a $500 civil penalty.

Omar's campaign told CNN that she will repay the committee and pay the civil penalty.

"I'm glad this process is complete and that the Campaign Finance Board has come to a resolution on this matter," Omar said in a statement.

"In addition to complying with the Board's findings, I plan on closing the account from my State House race and distributing the funds to organizations that help train first-time candidates to run for office -- so that the next generation of candidates and their teams know how to adequately track and report campaign expenses. I also believe we need to dedicate more resources to our campaign finance agencies -- and I look forward to supporting these efforts."

Omar is now a Democratic member of the US House of Representatives for Minnesota's 5th congressional district, but previously served as a Minnesota state legislator.

During her time in Congress, the freshman Democrat has become a polarizing and highly scrutinized figure, in particular due to statements she has made related to Israel and US foreign policy. Omar, who is Somali-American, is one of the first Muslim women to serve in Congress.

The Minnesota board stated in a report that on multiple occasions the campaign committee "improperly paid" for costs related to travel by Omar out of state. Those expenditures were deemed improper because the travel was not determined to be connected to helping her carry out legislative work.

In one instance, the report states that in 2017, the committee paid roughly $600 for airfare for Omar to "attend a meeting for the People for the American Way's America's Cabinet in New York." The report determined that "while Rep. Omar would not have been asked to participate in the America's Cabinet had she not been elected to the Minnesota House, she did not attend this event to assist her in her performance of her duties as a legislator."

The report further concluded that the committee "improperly paid the costs" for Omar's travel to attend the event.

The state board also found that the committee "failed to meet its burden to prove" that a payment to an accounting firm of $1,500 "was a permitted non-campaign disbursement" under Minnesota law.

CNN's Ashley Killough contributed to this report.

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