House Republicans introduced Friday a bill to stop federal candidates from adding their spouses to the campaign payroll, dubbing it the OMAR Act, which probably isn’t a coincidence.
Rep. Ilhan Omar, Minnesota Democrat, came under criticism last year for paying her husband’s consulting firm a reported $2.8 million during her 2020 reelection run, prompting conservatives to file a complaint with the Federal Election Commission.
She told supporters after the election that she would cut ties with E Street Group, headed by her husband Tim Mynett, to avoid any “perceived issue,” but the sponsors of the legislation said that the problem is bigger than any single candidate.
“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,” said Rep. Tom Tiffany, Wisconsin Republican, in a statement.
The Oversight for Members and Relatives Act would prohibit candidates for federal office from compensating spouses who work on campaigns and require disclosure of any direct or indirect payments made to spouses or immediate family members, including children, parents, siblings and in-laws.
“Loopholes that allow members of Congress to funnel campaign funds to their spouses are despicable and erode trust in our government,” said Rep. Mike Gallagher, Wisconsin Republican. “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.”
At least two top Democrats could be predisposed to support the measure: A similar measure sponsored by Rep. Adam B. Schiff, California Democrat, was approved by the House in 2007 with the support of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Mr. Schiff said in a 2007 press release that candidates “run for federal office to serve the public, not to financially profit from the campaign.”
“There have been too many reports of corruption and abuse in Congress over the last few years, and the passage of this bill with bipartisan support marks an important step forward in restoring the public’s confidence that elected officials are working in the public’s interest and not their own,” Mr. Schiff said. “Candidates run for federal office to serve the public, not to financially profit from the campaign.”
Mr. Tiffany said the OMAR Act was based on Mr. Schiff’s Campaign Expenditure Transparency Act.
“It is outrageous and inappropriate for Members of Congress to convert campaign donations to personal funds in this way,” Mr. Tiffany said. “It feeds public perceptions of corruption, undermines public trust in Congress, and must come to an end.”
A 2013 analysis by USA Today found that 32 members of Congress had doled out more than $2 million to relatives who staffed their campaigns in the 2012 election.
One of the biggest recipients was the wife of Rep. Bobby Rush, Illinois Democrat, who received $147,549 in the 2012 cycle, an order of magnitude less than the $2.8 million Mr. Mynett’s company was paid for its work on the Omar campaign, as reported Nov. 10 by Fox News.
In a Nov. 15 email to her supporters, Ms. Omar defended her campaign’s heavy spending on media services provided by her husband’s firm.
“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,” she said in the email obtained by The Associated Press.
• The Associated Press contributed to this report.