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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R)

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Tuesday, October 9, 2018

ST. PAUL – After receiving the Minnesota Campaign Finance Board’s (CFB) notification that it is conducting a formal investigation into State Representative Ilhan Omar’s campaign committee, Representative Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa) is now filing a new complaint against Omar with the CFB.


Drazkowski said he recently discovered Omar used campaign resources for personal travel expenses.


"Once again, Representative Omar’s disbursements appear to fall outside of allowable campaign committee expenditures, which continues a troubling pattern of state law violations in this area,” Drazkowski said. "The more we dig, the more problems we find."


Drazkowski uncovered items in the Omar Committee’s 2017 year-end report that show more than $3,000 in travel-related disbursements, including airline tickets for an international trip to Estonia and airline expenses for a trip to Massachusetts so Omar could speak at a rally on behalf of Boston City Council candidate Deego Jibril.


According to the Minnesota Campaign Finance Board’s current Candidate Handbook regarding non-campaign expenditures: “Trips that are for general fact-finding and relationship building, such as meeting with the state’s congressional delegation in Washington, D.C., are not reasonable costs of serving in office that may be paid for with campaign committee funds.”


Further, Minnesota Statutes 211B.12 Subd. 7 states: “Money collected for political purposes and assets of a political committee or political fund may not be converted to personal use.”


Drazkowski says it appears Rep. Omar personally benefitted from the payment of certain travel costs by her principal campaign committee, and by doing so violated state law.


“Like anyone else Representative Omar has the right to make a living, but she doesn’t have the right to use campaign funds to offset her out-of-pocket expenses as she chooses to travel the world,” Drazkowski said.


Earlier this year, Drazkowski filed a campaign finance complaint against the Omar committee for using campaign money to pay legal fees to her divorce attorney. According to statements made to the CFB by attorney Carla Kjellberg, Omar's payment to Kjellberg’s law office was reimbursed for services that the Kjellberg firm initially paid for on behalf of the Omar Committee, which would be a violation of state law. Additionally, it appears that the reimbursed expenses may have been related to tax preparation and legal expenses related to immigration.


Drazkowski said the CFB told him that probable cause exists in this complaint and that a formal investigation is now underway.


"I'm very pleased the Board is conducting an investigation, as I believe the evidence will prove Representative Omar has blatantly misused taxpayer resources for personal gain, and my new complaint will only bring forward more violations of the same law. What we are seeing before our eyes is a serial violator of our laws,” Drazkowski said.


Also in 2017, Rep. Omar had accepted payments from three Minnesota colleges after making appearances on campuses – which Drazkowski said was a clear violation of Minnesota House rules. So far, Omar has repaid $2,500 of the $2,750 amount she should not have accepted.