House Ethic Panel Forces Keith Ellison To Reveal Cost Of Mecca Trip


Local media is reporting that a a U.S. House ethics panel has forced Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn to disclose the cost of a controversial trip to Mecca last December. According to a report in the Star-Tribune:

After a months-long review by a U.S. House ethics panel, Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., has disclosed the amount of his privately-paid trip to Mecca in December. The trip, paid for by the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, cost $13,350, Ellison said Thursday. The two-week trip to Saudi Arabia, which Ellison described as a personal religious pilgrimage, or Hajj, prompted little discussion until June when Ellison filed financial travel reports that failed to disclose the amount the Muslim group had paid for his travel. In releasing the amount on Thursday, Ellison held to his previous assertion that he was following the instructions of the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, commonly known as the ethics committee. “I never had a moral objection to giving the number out,” said Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress. “But the rules said I didn’t have to, so I didn’t. Now I am.” What changed is the committee’s view of the trip. In a Sept. 21 letter to Ellison, ethics officials had said that a “statutorily-mandated review” of Ellison’s financial disclosure statements indicated that he originally had “disclosed the trip properly.” But “upon further review,” the committee said, Ellison must now report the cost of the trip….Ellison, explaining his decision not to disclose the cost of the trip voluntarily, said he had held to a legal line between what information is public, and what is not. “Where those limits exist,” he said, “I’m going to take advantage of those limits, when it’s legal for me to do so. And where it’s not, then I’m going to disclose.” Journalists and ethics experts who were calling on him to make the cost of the trip public, he said, were making an improper “moral judgment” and displaying “bias.” “Bottom line,” Ellison said, “I didn’t do anything wrong.”

A previous Star-Tribune report gave the background to Ellison’s trip:

Days after his return from an unannounced pilgrimage to the Islamic holy site of Mecca, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison talked about it as a transformational personal experience, saying “I didn’t want to turn it into a politics thing.” Nearly eight months later, the Minneapolis DFLer faces a House Ethics Committee review of his decision to keep the trip’s costs under wraps — even though it was paid for by a local Islamic nonprofit and typically would be reported as a gift to a public official. Asked about the trip Tuesday, Ellison said that he is “not privy to the internal workings of the organization” that covered his costs, and that he complied with all House Ethics panel disclosure requirements. “Why should I waive a right that’s accorded me under the rules?” he said. Tax records show the group that paid Ellison’s expenses, the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, received nearly $900,000 in taxpayer money in 2006 and 2007 from a rental arrangement for Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy (TiZA), an Inver Grove Heights charter school. The man who accompanied Ellison to Mecca, Asad Zaman, is executive director of the TiZA school, a political contributor of Ellison’s and was president of the Muslim American Society until August, when the Mecca trip was planned. TiZA has been sued by the American Civil Liberties Union and probed by state officials for allegedly promoting Islam, which would violate the church and state separation required of public schools — including charter schools. The school received state funding to pay rent to the Muslim American Society Property Holding Corp., a nonprofit spinoff of the Muslim American Society that owned the building. The corporation then turned over $879,000 to the Muslim society as a grant.

Ellison is the first Muslim to be elected to the U.S. Congress.

Previous posts have discussed both Ellison’s trip as well as the ongoing controversy between Minnesota State officials and the Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy (TiZA) which, as the article notes, has close connections to the Muslim American Society (MAS) but also to Islamic Relief, both organizations having close ties to the global Muslim Brotherhood. The MAS was established in 1993 and is identified in a recent Hudson Institute report as a part of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood and closely tied to the Egyptian organization.

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