House Republicans have introduced legislation seeking to stop federal candidates from enriching their spouses or immediate family members by adding them to their campaign payroll, pointedly dubbing it the “OMAR Act,” or the Oversight for Members and Relatives Act.
Republican Reps. Tom Tiffany and Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin announced the legislation on Friday. In a press release, the pair noted of a “House member from Minnesota” who allegedly took advantage of the loophole they wish to close by paying a reported $2.8 million to her husband’s consulting firm.
The Republicans are seemingly referring to Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, though they acknowledged the issue transcends Omar and political parties.
The OMAR Act, Reps. Tiffany and Gallagher said, “would put an end to the practice of candidates for office tapping their campaign accounts to enrich their spouses.”
“For too long, lawmakers of both political parties have engaged in the ethically dubious practice of pocketing campaign funds by ‘hiring’ their spouses and laundering the money as campaign related expenses,” Tiffany said.
“It is outrageous and inappropriate for Members of Congress to convert campaign donations to personal funds in this way,” he continued. “It feeds public perceptions of corruption, undermines public trust in Congress, and must come to an end.”
“Regardless of political party, we should all be able to agree that running for political office shouldn’t be part of a family enrichment scheme,” Tiffany added. “Passing the OMAR Act will help restore public confidence in Congress and stop politicians from effectively pocketing their campaign funds.”
Gallagher charged that such loopholes “allow members of Congress to funnel campaign funds to their spouses are despicable and erode trust in our government. There’s simply no logical reason for allowing this practice to continue, and I’m proud to join Rep. Tiffany in this common-sense effort to ensure members can’t profit off running for Congress.”
As noted by The Washington Examiner, Omar’s decision to pay the firm of political consultant Tim Mynett, whom she married in March, a reported $2.8 million during her 2020 reelection campaign triggered conservatives to file a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC).
Omar defended herself to supporters in an email dated November 15 that stated she was “cutting ties with her husband’s political consulting firm after winning her bid for reelection, saying she wants to ensure her supporters feel there’s no perceived issue,” The Associated Press reported in November.
“Every dollar that was spent went to a team of more than twenty that were helping us fight back against attacks and organize on the ground and online in a COVID-19 world. And Tim — beyond his salary at the firm — received no profit whatsoever from the consulting relationship the firm provided,” the email read.
The FEC has yet to move on the complaint by conservatives, the AP noted.
The “background” portion of Tiffany and Gallagher’s press release reads:
Fox News reported how an incumbent House member from Minnesota took advantage of this loophole “paid nearly $2.8 million to her husband’s political consulting firm so far in the 2019-2020 election cycle, including nearly 70% of her third-quarter disbursements.” To put this huge sum in perspective, it appears to be more than all members of Congress paid their immediate relatives during the entire 2012 election cycle, combined.
In 2007, Rep. Adam Schiff called for House approval of a ban on campaign payments to spouses “an important step forward in restoring the public’s confidence that elected officials are working in the public’s interest and not their own.” Speaker Pelosi, too, praised the House action, saying it would “increase transparency in election campaigns and [prevent] the misuse of funds.” Majority Leader Hoyer also applauded the measure, adding that it would “restore high ethical standards to Washington and clean up the culture of corruption.”