A Senate ethics subcommittee made up of an equal number of conservatives and liberals voted unanimously to issue subpoenas and proceed with an investigation of DFL Sen. Omar Fateh.
The subcommittee decided Wednesday to formally investigate Fateh for his possible involvement in a voter fraud scheme and an incident in which he tried to secure taxpayer funding for a nonprofit that helped his campaign. The subcommittee also decided without objection to issue subpoenas, bringing in witnesses to share what they know.
One of Fateh’s campaign operatives (who is also his brother-in-law) was recently found guilty of lying to a grand jury about his conduct in fraudulently trafficking three absentee ballots during the 2020 election. The operative, Muse Mohamud Mohamed, also used to live at an address registered to Fateh’s wife.
The initial ethics complaint filed against the senator accuses him of “failing to expressly address his involvement in the unauthorized delivery of 2020 primary election absentee ballots and retaining his Senate staffer who reportedly directed the fraudulent election activity.”
That staffer, Dawson Kimyon, was an aide to Sen. Fateh until recently and will be subpoenaed by the committee.
“Further interviews with Dawson Kimyon under oath will allow for a clear understanding of his involvement with Mohamed, whether it was done at the direction or with the knowledge of Sen. Fateh, and at what point Sen. Fateh became aware of these improper and illegal election practices,” a group of Republican legislators who filed the ethics complaint said in a statement.
The committee is also seeking the transcripts of the grand jury proceedings from Mohamed’s trial.
Fateh’s attorney, however, maintains he “had no indication that something was amiss, potentially, on his campaign,” speaking on his brother-in-law’s recent conviction. Fateh said he was “shocked” to learn of the fraud that occurred.
His attorney also noted that Mohamed was convicted of perjury, not fraud, and that neither Fateh nor Kimyon have been charged with any wrongdoing.
But investigating Fateh isn’t simply a Republican effort. Sen. Bobby Joe Champion is a Democrat on the ethics subcommittee who suggested that Fateh wasn’t actually “shocked.”
“If I’m shocked, then my shock leads to action. I do something,” he pointed out. “If you have something that’s hanging out there that is casting a shadow over your value system, your work, then I would think that you might want to do something in order to figure out what is right or wrong.”
Republican legislators have identified what they call a “quid pro quo relationship between Sen. Fateh and Somali TV” that saw the senator introducing a bill to give taxpayer dollars to the news station after it helped his campaign. Specifically, he is accused of receiving free advertising on the nonprofit’s channel during his campaign, then apparently repaying the favor by carrying a bill to give half a million taxpayer dollars to the outlet.
The president of Somali TV, Siyad Salah, has made conflicting statements about whether or not Fateh paid for the advertising. The subcommittee is set to subpoena Salah.
“The conflicting testimony about whether the ads cost money, how they were paid for, and whether they were fully accounted for leaves several questions about whether his campaign reports were complete and true,” Republicans said in their joint statement.
While Fateh said his team “worked really, really hard to run our campaign with the utmost integrity,” the group of Senate Republicans said they are still concerned about Salah’s “conflicting testimony.”
“We are pleased that the Subcommittee on Ethical Conduct is taking these issues seriously by issuing subpoenas and obtaining the transcripts,” the group added.
“We look forward to more details coming to light so Minnesotans can have confidence in both the election activities and the conduct of Senators,” the group said in a statement signed by Sens. Justin Eichorn, Mike Goggin, John Jasinski, Mark Johnson, Mark Koran, Andrew Mathews and Scott Newman.