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The Minnesota Senate’s ethics committee voted unanimously to launch an investigation into a state Democratic senator last week.

According to reports, the vote by the bipartisan ethics panel comes amid allegations from seven GOP state senators that Sen. Omar Fatah, who represents portions of south Minneapolis, that he failed “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.”

Fatah, along with his lawyer, Kristin Hendrick, has denied the allegations, according to the Sahan Journal.

The Journal reported last week:

State Senator Omar Fateh said his campaign did not receive free advertising or an endorsement from a Somali media outlet that stood to receive money from a bill he authored.

Omar, a Democrat who represents south Minneapolis, defended himself Wednesday before a Senate subcommittee that will decide at a later date whether an ethics complaint filed against him has enough merit to warrant further investigation.

Seven Republican state senators filed the complaint against Omar last month. They alleged that he violated the Senate’s ethics rules by allegedly receiving free advertising from Somali TV Minnesota and not disclosing it, and then writing legislation in April 2021 to appropriate $500,000 to them over two years. The bill never received a hearing.

Omar showed the subcommittee screenshots of two receipts totaling $1,000 that he paid to Somali TV Minnesota in the summer of 2020. He also cited campaign advertisements from other political candidates that aired on Somali TV Minnesota, which broadcasts on YouTube. He said the ads were similar to his.

“These are not endorsements,” said Fatah. “It’s not Somali TV telling folks to go vote for them; it is just [the candidates] using their platform.”

As for the ballot scheme, Hendrick said her client was “shocked” to learn about the allegations.

“He had no indication that something was amiss, potentially, on his campaign,” she testified under oath. “He did not direct any sort of criminal act or behavior to happen. He did not condone anything, he did not encourage anything directly or indirectly to happen that was not above board.”

The complaint, in large part, stems from a recent perjury conviction of Fatah’s brother-in-law, Muse Mohamed, a former volunteer for his campaign. A federal jury convicted Mohamed last month on two counts of lying to a grand jury about how he handled absentee ballots during an August 2020 election.

“An FBI agent testified at Muse’s trial that the investigation into how some absentee ballots were handled in the August 2020 election has lasted a year and involved more than 80 witnesses,” the Journal reported.

“Omar was not one of those witnesses, Hendrick said Wednesday, adding that he has not been requested or subpoenaed to testify in the investigation. [Mohamed] is the only person who has been charged in the investigation; no one has been charged with voter fraud in the case,” the report added.

Mohamed testified to the grand jury that he picked up ballots from three voters with the aim of returning them to the elections office.

However, the Journal reported, that evidence shown to the grand jury contradicted his testimony; two of the voters said that they never met him and never filled out the absentee ballots he testified about.

In response to a question from Senator Mary Kiffmeyer (R–Big Lake), Fatah explained why he was upset by Mohamed’s conviction.

“I was extremely troubled because we worked really, really hard to run our campaign with the utmost integrity,” Omar told the ethics subcommittee. “I was also horrified, like all of you, when the news came out when the allegations came out, and when the conviction happened.

“Both because it was part of my campaign, but it was extremely hurtful that it was a family member—someone that I cared about, someone I still care about, and someone that I’ll always care about,” he said, adding that he never knew about or encouraged any illegal activity.

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