Who is Keith Ellison? (19)

Kim Ellison is the wife of Keith Ellison, the DFL-endorsed candidate for Minnesota’s Fifth District congressional seat. Yesterday Mrs. Ellison took the fall for her husband’s repeated infractions of Minnesota’s campaign finance law. She also took the fall for her husband’s legal difficulties resulting in the suspension of his driver’s license on occasions so numerous he could not recall them all. Mrs. Ellison not only took the fall, she attributed it to her multiple sclerosis. At Soliah.com, Greg Lang comments and supplies some local political history for context. Today’s Star Tribune story puts the emphasis on Mrs. Ellison’s multiple sclerosis:

Kim Ellison, the wife of Democratic congressional candidate Keith Ellison, on Friday took responsibility for her husband’s late campaign finance reports, saying that she has struggled for several years with multiple sclerosis.

“I kept thinking, ‘I can figure this out. I can do this,'” said Kim Ellison, 42, who served as her husband’s campaign treasurer during his state House races. Keith Ellison was elected to the House in 2002, the year Kim Ellison said she received the diagnosis.

Ellison, the DFL endorsee in a tough four-way primary for the Fifth Congressional District, has been dogged by recent revelations of unpaid parking tickets and a campaign finance fine levied for repeated failure to file finance reports on time.

On Friday, Kim Ellison sent a letter to the Star Tribune; in it, she said that because of her illness, “I was having a tough time getting things done. I didn’t want to let Keith down by resigning and I guess he didn’t want to fire me either.

“I’m writing because I know that Keith wasn’t blowing off the campaign report deadlines. He was trying to bear with me and I’m sorry.”

Ellison said he did not know his wife had sent the letter. When a reporter read it to him, he burst into tears.

“She’s just trying to help me,” he said later. “I don’t know what else to say other than that. She’s a very courageous woman. It took a lot of guts to do what she did. I wish she hadn’t done it. It wasn’t necessary. But she wanted to help.”

The fines have since been paid and the congressional campaign has a different treasurer.

In addition to keeping the books for his campaigns, Kim Ellison, a St. Paul teacher and former IRS tax service representative, also kept the Ellison household books.

With MS, she said, came growing problems with short-term memory loss. When reminders of parking fines came in, Kim Ellison said she would lay the notice aside, meaning to tell Ellison when he came home, then forget.

She has found it hard to cope with her diagnosis – and the limitations her disease imposes.

A trim, athletic woman who used to keep strings of numbers in her head, swim, lift weights and work out daily, she now says she can no longer braid her daughter’s hair, walk around the lake without stopping, or remember upcoming events.

She has come to realize, she said, that “I need to write down what I have done, or that I even did it. If I need to make a phone call, I need to write down that I made the call, what we talked about, or I forget.”

Letting go of the couple’s finances and her husband’s campaign reports was difficult, she said, because “I’m a math person. I like numbers. I always kept numbers well. I told Keith, ‘Don’t ask me to speak for you at events.’ But I could do this. Now, I can’t.”

Multiple sclerosis is a chronic neurological disease of the central nervous system that is marked by its unpredictability. Those who live with MS can have mild to severe forms, intermittent or progressive.

Most people with MS suffer from memory loss and other cognitive dysfunctions, said Maureen Reeder, president of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s Minnesota chapter.

She said some people with the disease won’t “remember something that was just told to them.”

“It’s very frustrating for those with MS,” she said. “A common line to people with MS is, ‘But you look so good.’ ”

Kim Ellison said hers is moderate, with occasional flare-ups, although she said that one hand and both legs are “always numb, like something is wrapped tight around them.”

When she walks, she said, “I find myself feeling my way along the wall, watching my feet to see where they hit the ground.”

But Kim Ellison said she has the strength to take on both the election and the demands of a congressional spouse.

“He’s already a legislator and an attorney, so he’s pretty busy now,” she said. “We can handle it.”

Ellison said the couple talked over her condition before he decided to run.

“My wife is a very tough, strong woman,” he said. “We’re very tight. We’ve faced a lot of adversity together in the past… I’m sure that will see us through it all. It always does.”

No word on whether Mrs. Ellison and her multiple sclerosis accounted for Keith Ellison’s involvement with the Nation of Islam extending far beyond the 18-month period in the mid-1990’s to which Ellison has admitted, for the fact that he was a local leader and spokesman of the Nation of Islam, for the fact that Ellison defended the “truth” of an attack on Minneapolis Jews as “the most racist white people,” for the fact that Ellison affiliated himself with convicted murderer and Vice Lords gang leader Sharif Willis until Willis was convicted and returned to prison for crimes involving “a senseless display of terrorist tactics” in 1995, for the fact that Ellison supported the Vice Lords gangbangers charged (and subsequently convicted) with the murder of Minneapolis police officer Jerry Haaf (“We don’t get no justice, you don’t get no peace”), for the fact that Ellison has attacked law enforcement authorities in outrageous terms, for the fact that Ellison has demanded that Symbionese Liberation Army terrorist Sara Jane Olson be freed, or for the fact that Ellison has expressed concern for the continuing freedom of convicted cop-killer Assata Shakur (on the lam in Havana and recently named to the FBI’s most-wanted domestic terrorist list).

The Star Tribune story bears the byline of two reporters. Surely the Star Tribune can spring a reporter or two to clear up the possible relationship between Mrs. Ellison’s multiple sclerosis to the rest of Keith Ellison’s public record some time before the September primary election among Ellison and his three Democratic opponents.

PAUL adds: Fox News’ Special Report had a piece on Ellison last night. Fox answers the question, “who is Keith Ellison?” by calling him a “poltical trailblazer” for Muslims in America. It presented Ellison’s version of his connection to the Nation of Islam (he was just promoting free speech and provoking thought) without challenge. Fox made the Star-Tribune’s coverage hard-hitting.

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