The conservative, Virginia-based National Legal and Policy Center filed a complaint against Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) on Wednesday, alleging that the lawmaker used campaign funds to illegally reimburse her purported paramour for personal travel expenses.
The complaint also charges that Omar failed to itemize travel reimbursements as required by the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 -- and that the travel expenses increased during the same month that Omar's alleged affair with married Washington, D.C. political consultant Tim Mynett, 38, heated up.
The complaint was filed one day after it emerged that Beth Mynett, 55, submitted divorce papers in Washington, D.C., Superior Court, claiming her husband suddenly informed her earlier this year that he was having an affair with Omar.
Omar has denied that she had an affair with Mynett, and her attorneys have dismissed the FEC complaint as a baseless "political ploy." When asked on Tuesday by WCCO if she was separated from her own husband and if she was dating anyone, Omar replied: "No, I am not. As I said yesterday, I have no interest in really allowing the conversation about my personal life to continue and so I have no desire to discuss it."
Omar’s campaign has paid Mynett’s E. Street Group, LLC around $230,000 for fundraising consulting, digital communications, Internet advertising and travel expenses since 2018, federal election records indicate. Most of those payments occurred after Election Day last year.
Eight disbursements from Ilhan's campaign to the E Street Group for "travel expenses," totaling $21,546.94, were not itemized. FEC rules, the NLPC said, require that such travel expenses list the individual benefitting from the arrangement, as well as the date and purpose of the payment.
NLPC said that Omar's team instead only listed E Street as the payee, and contained no details on the trips.
"Although Mynett's formal relationship with Rep. Omar's campaign began in July 2018, with the payment of $7,000 directly to Mynett, the reimbursements for Mynett's travel did not commence until April 2019, the same month that Dr. Mynett alleges in her filing that her husband told her of the affair, and made a 'shocking declaration of love' for Rep. Omar," the complaint stated.
"It appears that ... Mynett's travel as reported by Ilhan for Congress may have been unrelated, or only partially related, to Omar's campaign," the complaint continued, noting that "romantic companionship" is not a legitimate reason to spend campaign funds on travel.
There were no indications that Mynett, or anyone acting on his behalf, later reimbursed Omar's campaign, NLPC said.
Responding to the complaint, David Mitrani, counsel to Ilhan for Congress and the E Street Group, said in a statement that "any accusation made that our clients acted to skirt the law in any way is absolutely false, and completely unfounded."
"E Street Group provides multiple different services to Ilhan for Congress under an arms-length contract – fundraising, digital advertising and the like," Mitrani said. "As a part of those services, the principals of E Street Group travel around the country fundraising for the Congresswoman. There is nothing untoward about this, nor anything illegal about it – and the complaint even misstates the law on travel reimbursements (as it is not required for payments to vendors, only for payments specifically to individuals)."
Legal experts said the payments were not necessarily illegal because of Omar's apparent personal connections to Mynett, as long as they were for bona fide campaign expenditures.
In June, Minnesota campaign finance officials found that Omar repeatedly violated state rules when she used campaign funds to pay for personal out-of-state travel as well as help on her tax returns. Omar was ordered to reimburse her former campaign committee nearly $3,500.
The Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board said the first-term congresswoman also must pay the state a $500 civil penalty for using campaign money to travel to Florida, where she accepted an honorarium.
Additionally, conservative commentators pointed out that the Board's report revealed Omar and her current husband, Ahmed Hirsi, filed joint tax returns in 2014 and 2015, when Omar was reportedly married to another man. Omar engaged in a civil marriage with Ahmed Nur Said Elmi in 2009, and the couple apparently separated in 2011 without formally petitioning for divorce until 2017.
Prior to her marriage with Elmi, Omar had supposedly wed Hirsi in the Muslim "faith tradition," but the couple separated shortly afterwards. Omar did not officially marry Hirsi until 2018, after reconciling with him and splitting with Elmi.
Tax experts say the IRS only permits joint filings if a couple is in a state that legally recognizes the couple as married.
In her divorce filing, Beth Mynett said she was seeking primary custody of the couple’s son because of her estranged husband’s “extensive travel” and concerns about his judgment.
The court papers said Mynett “put his son in harm’s way by taking him out in public with Representative Omar, who at that time had garnered a plethora of media attention along with death threats -- one rising to the level of arresting the known would-be assassin that same week.”
The 37-year-old congresswoman was spotted with Mynett at a California restaurant this past March.
“Defendant’s more recent travel and long work hours now appear to be more related to his affair with Representative Omar than with his actual work commitments,” Beth Mynett's court filing read.
Omar is not the first member of the so-called progressive Democratic "Squad" to come under FEC scrutiny. In April, NLPC alleged that New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Saikat Chakrabarti, her then-chief of staff, apparently violated campaign finance law by funneling nearly $1 million in contributions from political action committees Chakrabarti established to private companies that he also controlled.
Fox News' Andrew O'Reilly and Ronn Blitzer contributed to this report.