The Omar campaign committee produced internal emails reflecting its deliberations on the crisis fomented by Power Line’s August 2016 post on Omar’s multiple marriages and her possible marriage to her brother in marriage number 2. When I asked Omar about it by email on the Friday after her primary victory, I was provided a response via criminal lawyer Jean Brandl. The response was short on facts and long on imputations of bigotry. I posted the response verbatim on Power Line and inferred we might be on to something.
When the local media started asking Omar questions, she was equally unresponsive. The campaign formed a crisis committee and employed the services of Ben Goldfarb to act as a temporary crisis manager.
Docket number 35 of 212 filings in the campaign finance board case comprises the emails produced by the Omar campaign committee to the board. They open a window onto the close relationship between the Democratic campaign operatives and the Star Tribune. The emails should be of intense interest to anyone trying to understand Minnesota politics and the dormancy of the Omar story in the mainstream media until the unlawful joint tax filings incidentally revealed in the board’s disposition of the case late last week.
Among the players in the emails exchanged are campaign spokesman Jean Heyer (whom I originally called for comment in August 2016), attorney and crisis committee member Carla Kjellberg, and Goldfarb. The documents show Goldfarb’s work on a statement that was to be the last word and spare Omar the difficulty of addressing the facts herself.
When local political commentator/publisher Blois Olson cited the August 2016 Power Line post and referred to Power Line as “a trustworthy conservative news source” in his daily newsletter, Goldbarb advised: “Someone should reach out to talk off the record [with Olson] and shut it down with him as we do with the Strib” (page 22). Goldfarb remarked on his struggle to arrive at a helpful statement of the facts to cover Omar’s situation — one cultural husband, one legal husband — and lamented that “I think it’s impossible without making it even more confusing. It just doesn’t work in writing” (page 38).
The committee’s crisis strategy from the outset was founded on personal attacks and predicated on the confidence that the attacks would carry the day with their friends working on the news at the Star Tribune and elsewhere in the local media. Their confidence was not entirely misplaced. The Star Tribune covered the story, but took the Omar campaign’s minimalistic statements as the last word on the matter. To this day the paper reiterates their assertions as the settled facts of the case.
Today the Star Tribune publishes the editorial “Ilhan Omar’s credibility takes another hit.” It is nice to know the editors don’t approve of Omar’s illegal misconduct. Let us observe, however, that the editorial arrives more than a day late and falls well over a dollar short. The Star Tribune boasts of its local news coverage, but it is barely possible to do less than the paper has done to report on “The curious case of Ilhan Omar.”
FOR THE BACKGROUND TO THIS SHORT SERIES, see “From the mixed-up files of Rep. Ilhan Omar.”