State Senator Omar Fateh and his lawyer Kristin Hendrick testify in their first ethics subcommittee hearing on June 8, 2022. Credit: Ben Hovland | Sahan Journal

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Senator Omar Fateh must undergo training for failing to disclose payments he made for online campaign advertising, a state Senate committee declared Tuesday. 

The Senate Rules and Administration Committee formally adopted a resolution Tuesday morning outlining the findings of an ethics investigation into Omar. The Senate Subcommittee on Ethical Conduct first reached its conclusions in July after hearing testimony from Omar and other witnesses over four hearings. 

Omar “must seek guidance and instruction from the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board regarding the requirements and best practices for campaign finance reporting,” according to the resolution

It’s now up to the Campaign Finance Board to determine the additional training Omar will undergo.

Omar, a DFLer, could not be immediately reached following the Senate vote, and Omar’s legislative assistant referred comments on the matter to him.

The committee’s resolution doesn’t specify what the additional training will entail. Senators in the committee unanimously adopted the resolution with no discussion. Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, added that the Senate “will not be taking further action” on the matter.

The mandated training is for Omar’s failure to disclose $1,000 his campaign paid to Somali TV Minnesota for online advertising during his successful 2020 campaign. Somali TV Minnesota is a YouTube channel that specializes in news.

“Senator Fateh improperly commingled personal and campaign funds to make the payment for the ads placed on Somali TV,” said the committee’s resolution.

The findings are the result of two ethics complaints that seven Republican state senators filed complaints against Omar in May. They accused him of receiving free advertising on Somali TV Minnesota in exchange for sponsoring legislation that would funnel money to them. They also asked the committee to probe “the extent of Senator Omar’s involvement” in the alleged mishandling of absentee ballots by a campaign volunteer.

The ethics subcommittee ultimately dismissed both allegations.  

Omar testified at the ethics hearings that he paid $1,000 for advertising on Somali TV Minnesota and forgot to disclose the payment. He emphasized that his bill to allocate funds to Somali TV Minnesota was part of larger legislation that would have supported several other community organizations. The bill never passed or received a hearing, he added. Omar took blame for not disclosing the $1,000 payment. 

In a prepared statement following the ethics subcommittee’s decision in July, Omar said he “looked forward to moving past these complaints and dedicating more focus to my top priority—fighting on behalf of the needs and interests of working class families.”

The second ethics complaint followed the perjury conviction of Muse Mohamed, who is Omar’s brother-in-law and was a volunteer on his 2020 campaign. A federal jury convicted Muse in May of lying to a federal grand jury about his handling of three absentee ballots for Omar’s campaign. Two of the voters that Muse submitted ballots for testified that they had never met Muse. Muse, however, told the grand jury that he received the ballots from the voters. 

During Omar’s ethics hearings, Omar and his attorney said Muse’s conviction shocked him and that he had no idea “that something was amiss, potentially, on his campaign.”

“I was extremely troubled because we worked really, really hard to run our campaign with the utmost integrity,” Omar told the ethics subcommittee. “I was also horrified, like all of you, when the news came out, when the allegations came out, and when the conviction happened.” 

The ethics subcommittee eventually subpoenaed Omar’s former campaign manager and legislative assistant Dawson Kimyon, who invoked his Fifth Amendment rights at a July hearing and refused to answer questions about the controversy. 

Union organizer Shaun Laden challenged Omar in the August primary. Omar handily defeated Laden by more than 20 points and is on track to win a second term representing a south Minneapolis district that favors DFL candidates. 

Joey Peters

Joey Peters is a reporter for Sahan Journal. His work has appeared in Reuters, Public Radio International, Columbia Journalism Review, KFAI Radio, the Pioneer Press, City Pages, MinnPost and more. He previously...