The price is right (Ellison hajj edition)

We’ve written several times about Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison’s hajj to Mecca, most recently here. A spokesman for Ellison, the first Muslim congressman, first told the Star Tribune that Ellison paid for the pilgrimage himself. The Star Tribune subsequently reported that the Minnesota chapter of the Muslim American Society paid for Ellison’s hajj. MAS spokesman Mahdi Bray heatedly denied the report, describing it as a “myth” and “urban legend” that couldn’t possibly be true because “that would be a breach of congressional ethics.”

Members of Congress recently filed their annual disclosure forms, listing travel payments and reimbursements by private entities. Ellison’s form put to rest any lingering question about who paid for his two-week trip to Saudi Arabia, listing the MAS Minnesota as the benefactor reponsible for his hajj trip from November 29-December 14, 2008. MAS Minnesota covered all his expenses over the 16 days of his trip.

The MAS was of course founded as the American branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, the organization that spawned all of the leading Sunni terrorist groups, including al Qaeda, Hamas and others. You can read about MAS here. Its pro-terrorist, anti-American orientation continues to this day.

Here in Minnesota, the local MAS chapter is notorious for stirring up trouble in a variety of fabricated controversies. It is also at the heart of the story of the Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy in suburban St. Paul, a Muslim school run with taxpayer funds under the supervision of a principal/imam who serves on the MAS Minnesota chapter council. One would think that Ellison’s close association with, and indebtedness to, MAS Minnesota might be newsworthy. Think again.

But Ellison’s refusal to disclose the cost of his hajj has attracted the interest of the Star Tribune. In “Ellison’s privately paid trip to Mecca prompts debate,” Eric Roper reports:

Though members of Congress are required to disclose the details of just about any gift they receive, Ellison’s office has declined to make public the cost of his trip, estimated at several thousand dollars, maintaining that it was “personal.” His spokesman also says the ethics panel didn’t require disclosure of the figure.

On Wednesday, in response to inquiries from the Star Tribune about whether the cost should have been reported on disclosure forms released this month, the Ethics Committee is revisiting whether the congressman must report it, said Ellison spokesman Rick Jauert.

The move comes after several government ethics and transparency experts told the Star Tribune that they question why a major gift to a prominent politician is shrouded in secrecy.

In “Louis Farrakhan’s first congressman,” I wrote about the spike applied by the Star Tribune to stories Ellison preferred to keep buried in his past. To this day the Star Tribune has failed to report on Ellison’s long involvement with, and leadership of, the local activities of the Nation of Islam. Ellilson is not accustomed to being called on to answer questions he would prefer to avoid. This week’s Star Tribune story represents a rare departure.


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