Documents shed light on why Omar reviewed her tax returns

Ilhan Omar in 2017 Evan Frost | MPR News

Depositions, correspondence and other records generated in a state board’s investigation into irregularities in Rep. Ilhan Omar’s campaign spending provide extra details about how questions over the Democratic lawmaker’s tax filings were first raised and handled.

Last week, the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board issued findings that Omar improperly billed expenses of a personal nature and some travel to her campaign. In doing so, the board indicated that Omar appeared to file a joint tax return with her husband before they were legally married. The board didn’t review or seek Omar’s tax returns, which were outside the scope of its probe.

Omar, a former DFL state legislator who now represents a Minneapolis district in Congress, has said little about the status of her 2014 and 2015 tax returns other than a campaign spokesman’s statement that her returns are “fully compliant with all applicable tax law.”

She has not made the returns public or responded to the allegation that she improperly filed joint returns.

An accounting firm hired by Omar’s 2016 state House campaign to review her financial filings discovered “something needed to be corrected/amended by Rep. Omar,” according to a letter sent to the state investigators. The firm obtained the couple’s tax forms with their consent through the IRS as part of a campaign research project into their candidate at a time of crisis.

At the time, Omar’s campaign was working to counter reports on a conservative blog and later by mainstream publications about her marital status.

“I was accused of being married to two people, so tax filings I’m guessing were a huge part of that,” Omar said in a sworn deposition last December when asked why her tax filings were being inspected. The deposition was released after the state investigation ended.

Suggesting she was being wrongly accused, Omar said in the deposition that the accountant’s task was “to say, hey, can you look at the last two forms for us to let us know if this is something we need to worry about?”

State officials asked Omar if she knew whether there were amendments filed to her taxes based on the accounting firm’s work.

“I don’t think so,” Omar answered before adding that she couldn’t “recall doing any.”

K. Davis Senseman, a lawyer for Omar, told the campaign board in an April letter that a correction/amendment to the tax returns was made, and Omar and her husband paid personally to have the revision done.

The tax issue arose because of a $1,500 payment to the Fredrick & Rosen, Ltd. accounting firm. Regulators were trying to establish whether the expense was for Omar personally or had a campaign purpose.

In addition to the campaign work, Omar said she has since used one of the firm’s principals, Tom Rosen, as a personal accountant whom she pays through personal funds.

Omar was ordered to reimburse her committee about $3,500 for other expenses that weren’t determined to have a legitimate campaign use. She was also fined $500, which she must pay by early July.

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