The Potluck

GOP senators want ethics review of Sen. Omar Fateh effort to give nonprofit a $500,000 grant after it endorsed him

By: - May 24, 2022 12:00 pm

Sen. John Hoffman, D-Champlin, speaks with Sen. Omar Fateh, D-Minneapolis, right, on the Senate floor on May 4, 2022. Photo by Catherine J. Davis/ Senate Media Services

A group of Republican state senators on Tuesday filed an ethics complaint against a DFL colleague, Sen. Omar Fateh of Minneapolis, requesting a review of Fateh’s sponsorship of legislation to give a nonprofit a $500,000 grant after it endorsed him, potentially in violation of its nonprofit status. 

Additionally, the complaint authors wants the Senate Subcommittee on Ethical Conduct Committee to examine Fateh’s ties to his brother-in-law, who volunteered on his campaign and was recently convicted of lying to a grand jury in a ballot fraud case

“What we have recently learned regarding Senator Omar Fateh has raised questions about legislation he has sponsored at the Senate and the conduct of the primary election that elevated him to the Minnesota Senate,” said the joint statement from GOP Sens. Mark Koran of North Branch; Mark Johnson of East Grand Forks; Justin Eichorn of Grand Rapids; Scott Newman of Hutchinson; Andrew Mathews of Princeton; Mike Goggin of Red Wing; and John Jasinski of Faribault.

“We urge the subcommittee to promptly examine our complaint and provide the public with transparent and clear answers about what happened,” they said. 

The complaint is partly based on a Reformer report that first raised questions about Fateh introducing legislation to award a $500,000 grant to Somali TV of Minnesota, a YouTube channel with 170,000 subscribers. It aired ads in 2020 that encouraged viewers to vote for Fateh, who at the time was running to unseat a DFL incumbent. 

Somali TV is a 501(c)(3) organization, a type of nonprofit that risks losing its tax-exempt status if it engages in political activity or endorses candidates.

Fateh, 32, is a first-term lawmaker, elected in 2020 to represent a south Minneapolis district. He beat former DFL Assistant Minority Leader Jeff Hayden in the primary election. 

The Senate’s subcommittee on ethics is a four-person panel chaired by Sen. David Osmek, R-Mound. It has one other GOP member and two DFL members. 

“The Senate DFL Caucus welcomes scrutiny when credible information presents itself, even if or when it involves one of our members,” Senate DFL leadership said in a group statement. “We have confidence that our Senate colleagues on the Ethics Committee will conduct a fair, bipartisan inquiry.”

The statement came from Senate Minority Leader Melisa López Franzen of Edina; Sen. Mary Kunesh of New Brighton; Foung Hawj of St. Paul; and Nick Frentz of North Mankato.

Fateh did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

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