New contradictions revealed in ethics hearing about Democratic senator

Sen. Fateh tried to give $500,000 of taxpayer money to a news station that offered him free advertising, an ethics committee alleges.

Sen. Omar Fateh speaks before an ethics subcommittee earlier this year. (Minnesota Senate Media Services)

New discrepancies were revealed during an ethics hearing Wednesday centered around Democratic Sen. Omar Fateh.

Fateh is under investigation by a Minnesota Senate ethics subcommittee for what Republican legislators describe as 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 channel during his campaign, then apparently repaying the favor by fielding a bill to give half a million taxpayer dollars to the outlet.

“Sen. Fateh has not proven he made proper payments for the advertisement in question,” a group of Republican senators said in a joint statement after the first day of Fateh’s ethics hearing concluded. The group includes Sens. Justin Eichorn, Mike Goggin, John Jasinski, Mark Johnson, Mark Koran, Andrew Mathews and Scott Newman.

Fateh has produced a screenshot that shows a Cash App transfer between his campaign and Siyad Salah, the president of Somali TV. However, Republicans pointed out that this is not adequate documentation or financial disclosure. In fact, Fateh’s campaign finance report didn’t even list the expenditure, which occurred in 2020, until it was amended Tuesday, according to the Minnesota Reformer.

“Furthermore,” the statement continues, “we still have a discrepancy between Siyad Salah’s sworn statement that the ad was paid for by Sen. Fateh, and his comments to the press that the ads were free.”

Salah said in a sworn affidavit that Fateh paid him for advertising. The ads didn’t feature the typical disclaimer saying they were paid for by a political campaign. Salah said this is because he “forgot to post the disclaimer.” This contradicts his previous statement to the Reformer that the ad was free, like the others he runs for candidates, mostly of Somali background.

Not only do these two statements contradict one another, but Somali TV could be violating the law. The Secretary of State indicates the station is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Such organizations are “absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office,” per the IRS.

Some suggest that by running free ads in support of a candidate, if that is what it did, Somali TV could lose its tax-exempt status.

What’s more, the ethics subcommittee has not even begun the second half of its investigation. 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 trafficking three absentee ballots during the 2020 election. The operative also used to live at an address registered to Fateh’s wife.

The ethics subcommittee is concerned about this and looks forward to diving deeper. “We have not even started discussing the second complaint regarding individuals named in a federal investigation into voter fraud that also worked for Sen. Fateh,” the Republican senators said. “We look forward to the subcommittee reconvening so we can discuss this issue as well.”

So far, the subcommittee has not voted to make a determination of probable cause. They instead want to continue the hearing, which will reconvene on June 15 at  9 a.m.