Rep. Ilhan Omar's (D-MN) private life has been the subject of some scrutiny before (fairly or unfairly), but a new discovery about Omar's tax returns has shifted focus on to the Minnesota legislator's complicated family situation, and whether her relationships may have led her and her now-husband to violate federal law.
Last week, a Minnesota campaign finance review board released a report detailing a months-long investigation into whether Omar violated Minnesota ethics laws. But, according to The Hill, the report also speculated that Omar and her husband, Ahmed Hirsi, filed joint tax returns in 2014 and 2015 while Omar was still legally married to another man.
Omar's fundraising did land her in some hot water. She was "ordered ... to repay her state House campaign committee nearly $3,500 in funds used in violation of law, as well as pay to the state a $500 civil penalty" for misusing or miscategorizing money that was supposed to go toward her campaign for Congress (including, allegedly, a nearly $3,000 payment to a divorce attorney).
But it's no doubt the other potential problems that could mean real trouble. According to the Associated Press, the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board mentioned that Omar's financial disclosures contained some irregularities, and although they aren't the ones to ultimately investigate and punish her for them, the board felt they were worth mentioning.
For instance, "Omar and her husband, Ahmed Abdisalan Hirsi, filed joint tax returns for 2014 and 2015 — before they were actually married and while Omar was legally wed to another man," a practice that runs afoul of both Minnesota state law and federal tax law.
The revelation also uncovered a bizarre back-and-forth relationship between Omar and Hirsi that goes back more than a decade. She and Hirsi, who Omar also claims is known as Ahmed Abdisalan Aden, applied for a marriage license in the state of Minnesota in 2002. It wasn't granted. The AP says the pair then went on to get married in the Muslim faith — just not by the state — and had two children together before breaking up in 2008.
After the pair split, Omar married a man named Ahmed Nur Said Elmi, whom conspiracy theorists claim is either a familial relation or a green card-seeker (which Omar and Elmi both deny). They did receive a marriage certificate from Minnesota and pursued a civil marriage, but when they divorced in 2011, they did not file paperwork with the state. Instead, Omar says, she and Elmi divorced in the Muslim faith and left it at that. Eventually, Omar filed for divorce from Elmi in 2017 — the same incident that affected her campaign finance situation.
Omar and Hirsi reunited, she says, sometime after she divorced Elmi, had a child together in 2012, and then legally married in 2018. But according to her IRS filings, it appears that Omar and Hirsi filed jointly as a married couple in 2014 and 2015, after she'd separated from her other husband, but before she'd filed for a legal divorce, and well before she legally married Hirsi in Minnesota.
The best way to describe the situation is, plainly, "weird." It's not clear, according to the Associated Press, that Omar or her non-husband saw any benefit from filing jointly, or that they purposefully intended to pay less in taxes by filling out the paperwork together. It's also not clear whether Omar is in trouble; the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board did not refer the matter to a state prosecutor, and the IRS does its own investigations and won't comment on any pending inquiries.
The discovery probably won't have much impact on Omar's re-election, but it does seem to fit in with a trend of problematic behavior that began well before she was elected to Congress.