U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar’s tax filings came under scrutiny Friday after Minnesota campaign finance investigators revealed she had filed jointly with a man to whom she wasn’t legally married for two consecutive years before she took elected office.
The revelation was seized on by some conservative media outlets and social media pundits, who said the situation was tantamount to tax fraud — a charge Omar denied.
A campaign spokesman for the Minneapolis Democrat issued the following statement Friday: “All of Rep. Omar’s tax filings are fully compliant with all applicable tax law.”
According to a report from the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board, Omar and Ahmed Hirsi filed jointly in 2014 and 2015. She’s currently married to Hirsi, but at the time, she wasn’t — an apparent violation of tax laws and regulations that Omar appears to have rectified.
The IRS only allows a couple to file a joint tax return if the state they reside in recognizes the relationship as a legal marriage; unmarried couples are never eligible to file joint returns.
Complicating matters further: Omar was legally married to a different man at the time.
The Campaign Finance Board report found that Omar had violated state campaign finance laws, and some of those violations related to payments made to an accounting firm that appears to have corrected the tax filing — but the thrust of Omar’s campaign finance violations were about unrelated matters.
The tax fraud violations by U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar were discovered while she was being investigated for violating state rules when she used campaign funds to pay for personal out-of-state travel and help on her tax returns
The Campaign Finance Board has not referred the issue to any criminal investigators, and its investigators did not look at the actual tax filings, but relied on interviews with several people, including Omar’s attorney, according to its report and Executive Director Jeff Sigurdson.
Here’s a timeline that helps explain it, based on public records and reporting by the Pioneer Press and Associated Press:
OMAR’S MARRIAGES AND TAXES
2002: Omar applies for license to marry Ahmed Abdisalan Hirsi, then named Ahmed Abdisalan Aden, according to Hennepin County records. Records show a marriage certificate wasn’t issued, and Omar has said they didn’t pursue a civil marriage but instead married in their Muslim “faith tradition,” according to the AP.
2008: Omar and Hirsi end their relationship, according to Omar. They had two children by this time.
2009: Omar marries Ahmed Nur Said Elmi, according to a Hennepin County marriage certificate. Elmi, a British citizen, is the person some conservative media have alleged to be Omar’s brother as part of an immigration scheme. Omar has strongly denied this. Last year, the AP extensively looked into this allegation.
2011: Omar and Elmi end their relationship and divorce in their faith tradition, according to Omar, but they take no legal action to end the marriage until 2017.
2012: Omar and Hirsi reunite and have a third child, according to Hennepin County records.
2014: Omar and Hirsi file joint tax returns, according to the Campaign Finance Board.
2015: Omar and Hirsi again file joint tax returns, according to Campaign Finance Board report.
During both these years, Omar remains legally married to Elmi and not legally married to Hirsi, although she and Hirsi are together. It’s not known whether they filed jointly for any other years. State and federal laws appear to say that Omar and Hirsi should not have been allowed to file jointly during these years. The Campaign Finance Board does not possess the actual tax filings, and the Pioneer Press was unable to review them.
2016: Attorney Carla Kjellberg is hired by Omar’s campaign as part of a “crisis committee” to address issues related to her marital and immigration status and history. Kjellberg hires accounting firm Frederick & Rosen to review Omar’s financial records.
Frederick & Rosen review Omar’s 2014 and 2015 tax filings and report that something in Omar’s tax filings needs to be corrected, according to the Campaign Finance Board. In a recent interview with campaign finance officials, Kjellberg describes it as “correcting something that could have been detrimental to Ms. Omar.”
In November, Omar is elected to the Minnesota House — the first time she has held elected office.
2017: Omar files for divorce from Elmi. Kjellberg serves as her divorce attorney. Kjellberg was not paid for the divorce work by Omar’s campaign.
2018: Omar’s marriage to Elmi legally ends in divorce early in the year. A month later, she legally marries Hirsi. In November, Omar is elected to Congress.
June 2019: The Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board reveals that Omar and Hirsi filed joint tax returns as part of a report from an investigation into whether Omar’s campaign violated state spending and reporting requirements.
The campaign did commit violations, the report concludes, and Omar is ordered to reimburse her former campaign committee nearly $3,500, mostly for personal travel, and is fined $500. Omar says she will comply.