On Thursday, John wrote about the recently announced nuptials of Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and her then-campaign consultant Tim Mynett, the head of E Street Group. (The company denies having anything to do with Bruce Springsteen.) While Omar’s marital history still raises many questions, one of which I’ll get to in a moment, the current media scrutiny about this event has more to do with questions of potential campaign finance impropriety. At the WaPo, Michelle Ye Hee Lee looks back at the new groom’s involvement with Omar’s campaigns and the financial windfall it brought him and his firm.
Since 2018, Omar’s campaign paid about $586,000 to E Street Group for a range of services that included digital advertising, fundraising consulting, digital communications and design. The campaign also paid $7,000 to Mynett directly for fundraising consulting before hiring his consulting firm.
Payments to the firm in the 2019-2020 cycle for Omar’s reelection campaign comprised 40 percent of total campaign expenses, federal filings show.
Representatives for Omar’s campaign and Mynett’s firm said this week that there was nothing improper about the payments because they were made for legitimate work.
It turns out that nearly half (40%) of all of Omar’s 2020 election cycle campaign expenses went directly to her new husband’s firm. And despite her repeated previous denials, the idea that the two of them weren’t engaged in a romantic relationship throughout that period of time is now simply laughable. But was any of this against the law? There’s been an FEC complaint filed, calling for an investigation into these payments. Also, Charlie Kirk piped up recently to ask how this isn’t a campaign finance violation.
We should keep in mind, however, that there’s a difference between garbage optics in politics and actual violations of the law. Yes, this all looks bad. Really bad. It stinks on ice. But if E Street Group is a legitimate firm (as it appears to be) and they can document valid work that they were doing for the campaign, it’s not illegal for your boyfriend’s firm to be the entity doing it. And one of Mynett’s partners is already on record saying they can document all of the work that various staffers there did for Omar’s campaign on a daily basis. Unless he’s lying, it sounds like the FEC will come up dry on this investigation.
As I mentioned above, most of the questions about Omar’s marriage to her new husband (this is her fourth marriage to three different men) are probably nobody’s business unless there are some campaign finance hijinks involved. What may still be of slightly more interest, is her marriage to her previous husband, Ahmed Nur Said Elmi. We’ve seen repeated reports alleging that Elmi and Omar are brother and sister. Politifact, the Associated Press and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune have looked deeply into that question and none were able to reach a definitive answer one way or the other.
Why does it matter? Well, if we want to get really picky, it’s still technically illegal to marry your sibling in any state in America, including Minnesota. But almost no one is ever prosecuted for it. Also, Omar’s previous marriages were all “religious ceremonies” without having a formal marriage license, so I don’t know if the state could make a case if it wanted to.
But what benefits, if any, accrued to Ahmed Nur Said Elmi from his marriage to Omar? Records on that guy are few and far between. He’s always described as being “a British citizen,” but did they ever try to obtain United States citizenship for him? That’s also unknown from what I could dig up, but if they did and the marriage was used as a partial basis for the application, that could add up to an immigration law issue. But then, since there was no license, could their marriage even be considered? It’s enough to give you a headache just digging through all of this.
In the end, as I suggested at the top, there may be little or no fire underneath all of this smoke. If Omar’s new spouse can show that he “earned” all of that campaign money by doing defensible work on Omar’s campaign, they likely won’t face any issues. And even if she did marry her brother, if he didn’t wind up becoming a citizen, they’re probably in the clear there as well. Yes, marrying your brother is incredibly creepy, but it’s not a threat to her congressional seat unless she winds up in some real trouble with the law. And we’re still not entirely certain that Elmi even is her brother, to begin with.