Reporting on Minnesota’s ethically challenged Rep. Ilhan Omar over the past four years, I came to the conclusion that she is heedless of the laws and rules that apply to mere mortals. She views herself as immune from them and so far she has proven right.
In December 2019 Omar reportedly received a substantial cash advance — Forbes pegged it in a range from $100,00 to $250,000, although I was told it was $300,000 — for a book written on her behalf. (The book was published earlier this year.) Forbes picked up the Publishers Marketplace notice of Omar’s book deal in a report dated January 16, 2019. I noted the advance in “Divorce, Minnesota style.”
The Washington Free Beacon wondered in a staff report whether Omar had complied with the applicable House ethics rule. Under House Rule 25, among other things, a member (1) is prohibited from receiving royalties unless the book contract is first approved by the Ethics Committee and (2) is prohibited from receiving an advance against royalties. See the House Ethics Manual at pages 224-228.
The Beacon noted this workaround for newly elected members:
Some new lawmakers who, like Omar, garner national attention on the campaign trail and draw the attention of book publishers, work around the rule by signing book contracts after they are elected—but before they are officially sworn into office. Doing so allows them to accept advances that frequently run well into the six-figure range—Omar’s book deal was reportedly worth between $100,000 and $250,000, according to Forbes—while still complying with House ethics rules.
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Omar’s colleague, Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R., Texas), for example, received a $250,000 advance to pen a book about “outrage culture” before his swearing in last January. The hefty sum appears on his 2018 financial disclosure report, a filing required from all members of Congress detailing the sources and value of the incomes of House members.
Omar was sworn in on January 3, 2019. To comply with the House rule, Omar would have had to agree to the publishing contract and take any advance before that date. Omar’s 2018 financial disclosure report listed no book advance. Did she enter into the contract and receive the advance on January 1 or 2 last year? After a six-month extension, Omar only recently filed her 2019 financial disclosure report. It too is silent on Omar’s book deal and any advance.
Doing the job that the Minnesota media refuses to do, the Washington Free Beacon picks up the story in the staff report “Good Government Watchdog Zeroes in on Rep. Ilhan Omar’s Book Deal.” The song remains the same: “Omar spokesman Jeremy Slevin failed to respond to multiple requests for comment, said in May that the House Ethics Committee had approved Omar’s book deal, though her reports do not document any such deal.” The Beacon adds: “Omar’s publisher, Dey Street Books, did not respond to a request for comment. The House Ethics Committee also did not respond to a request for comment.”
As a candidate for state legislative office and in her brief tenure in the state legislature, Omar could not have cared less about compliance with applicable ethics rules. The state campaign finance board spent a year investigating her numerous violations and discovered, coincidentally, that she had filed joint tax returns with the man to whom she was not legally married while she was married to another man. What was she thinking? Beyond imputing “Islamophobia” to anyone who asked, she has refused to say word one about that either.
When Omar has something to say on her own behalf, she is not bashful about saying it. When caught in a compromising situation, however, Omar exercises her right to remain silent, accuses anyone who asks about it of “Islamophobia” or “stupidity,” and/or lies about it. Free associating on “book,” I think this is the way the story should end.