If you’re a friend of Tim Mynett and you forgot to get him a wedding present, don’t bother. His wife’s already gotten him something that’s more than enough to cover everyone on the registry.
According to federal election records, Minnesota Democrat Rep. Ilhan Omar’s campaign paid her new husband’s firm $189,000 in March alone — just after they were married, mind you — for his consulting services.
Omar faced at least one ethics complaint after the New York Post broke the news about the money being funneled from Omar’s campaign to E Street Group last year. The allegations were initially made in the divorce filings from Mynett’s then-wife, who accused Mynett (not incorrectly) of having an affair with the freshman congresswoman.
Omar’s former husband, Ahmed Hirsi, later said he found the two together in a compromising position — wearing pajamas — when he surprised his wife in Washington, D.C.
Omar and Mynett announced their marriage on Instagram in March.
According to the Post, Omar’s campaign has spent $878,930.65 on E Street Group since 2018, including $292,814.99 just this year.
This is all sketch-tastic enough, but it gets worse: According to a report from the Washington Examiner last year, one out of every three dollars Omar has spent from her campaign was spent with Mynett’s firm.
She was also their biggest client.
As per the Examiner’s Tiana Lowe: “Of the $145,406 reported earnings by the E Street Group during the 2018 campaign cycle, $62,674 came from Omar’s campaign. Not counting payroll taxes and transfers to Minnesota’s Democratic Party, E Street Group was Omar’s second-largest vendor, according to FEC data. From Labor Day through the end of the year, E Street Group ate up more than 10% of her campaign’s spending (not counting transfers to other campaigns.”
This probably wasn’t a value-for-money proposition, one suspects. Nor would it ordinarily be a good thing for Mynett, at least if he wanted to spread his business around.
According to data from OpenSecrets, almost half of E Street Group’s business during the 2020 cycle comes from Omar’s campaign. If there would be any split from Mynett — heaven forfend — the consultant would be in problematic straits in terms of monetary inflow.
A total of $816,256 out of $1,735,891 of Mynett’s business comes from Ilhan for Congress this cycle. Only one other candidate’s PAC or campaign spent more than $100,000 with the E Street Group — MATH PAC, a political action committee associated with failed Democratic presidential candidate/universal basic income flogger Andrew Yang.
At least Yang was running a national campaign. Omar continues to funnel money into Mynett’s firm for a rather amorphous set of services he provides despite no legitimate challenger in a district that the Cook Partisan Voter Index rates as Democrat plus-26.
Indeed, most of the money she spent with E Street Group during the 2018 cycle was after she won the Democratic nomination, a curious arrangement given that the only thing Omar had to spend money on at that point was the caterers for the victory party.
The arrangement is technically legal — the Federal Elections Commission allows candidates to hire spouses and relatives — if ethically questionable.
One of the more surprising sources from the New York Post article Tuesday was Richard W. Painter, chief ethics lawyer in the Bush White House. Painter, now a Democrat and a thoroughly outré NeverTrumper, ran for the 2018 Democratic Senate nomination in Minnesota in an unsuccessful candidacy best remembered for a bad-laugh viral commercial involving an actual dumpster fire. He didn’t win, for better or worse, and now he’s saying slightly more reasonable things such as that politicians hiring their spouses for their campaigns “should not be allowed.”
“I think it’s a horrible idea to allow it, given the amount of money that goes into these campaigns from special interests,” Painter said, adding that candidates with little opposition could use the law to divert campaign money to themselves and their families.
“We already have enough problems with gifts to campaigns as a quid pro quo for political action,” he said.
Hiring spouses or family members for jobs in the federal government is illegal, it’s worth pointing out, but not for political campaigns.
What’s more, Mynett’s former wife, Beth, said in 2019 court documents that her then-husband was “conveniently asserting after their separation that he is nearly broke, and his business is floundering,” according to a New York Post report.
“There’s a long line of abuses in this regard where members of Congress will hire family members and pay their family members to do ‘campaign work’ in order to supplement the family income,” Cleta Mitchell, political law expert, told the Post.
Here’s what Omar ought to be worried about, quoth the Post: “If the FEC does decide to investigate, the onus will be on Omar and Mynett to prove that the campaign is paying him a reasonable market-based rate and that the arrangement is ‘not a pretext to fluff up their income,’ said Mitchell, a partner at Foley & Lardner.”
Whatever the case may turn out to be, I doubt even the most ardent Ilhanite looked at these reports without an involuntary cringe.
The “squad” was supposed to be about avoiding these kinds of conflicts of interests, after all, of being above the corrupting influence of donors.
Instead of representing that ideal, Omar seems instead to be putting on a master class on how politicians can dispose of that money in shadier ways.
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