MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party officials charged Tuesday that Antone Melton-Meaux, the top challenger to incumbent U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, skirted campaign finance laws by hiding some of his top political consultants in next week's nationally watched Democratic primary.
A Federal Election Commission complaint obtained by the Minneapolis Star Tribune alleges that Melton-Meaux's campaign violated federal election law by "conspiring to intentionally obscure" the identity of political consultants listed as limited liability corporations working on his challenge to Omar in a hotly contested race that has already seen each side raise more than $4 million.
"The campaign of Ilhan Omar's primary opponent has gone against the values of the DFL Party by apparently working with vendors to set up mysterious shell companies to hide millions of dollars in spending," DFL Chair Ken Martin said in a prepared statement.
Lee Hayes, a spokesman for Melton-Meaux's campaign, called the FEC filing baseless and an attempt to distract from Omar's own campaign finance issues, given her campaign has directed more than $1.6 million to a Washington, D.C., firm that employs her husband as a consultant.
That case is also before the FEC. "Her campaign money is coming into her own household and she is benefiting from that," Hayes said.
The exchange was the latest in an increasingly bitter volley of campaign salvos in a race that has divided Democrats in a traditionally liberal district that includes Minneapolis and several western suburbs.
Melton-Meaux, an attorney-mediator, has sharpened his criticism of Omar's turbulent first term in Congress, arguing that her national profile as an outspoken progressive has done little for the 5th Congressional District. Omar, running with the party endorsement, has questioned Melton-Meaux's progressive credentials, citing a past critique of the Black Lives Matter movement and his legal work on behalf of companies in labor disputes.
Attacks between the two campaigns have intensified in recent weeks as the perception grows that Melton-Meaux is within striking distance of unseating Omar, the first Somali American in Congress. The primary is expected to all but decide the general election winner, even though Omar's national profile as a foil for the political right has fueled fundraising for the top Republican in the race, north Minneapolis businessman Lacy Johnson. He also has raised more than $4 million.
Much of the money for all three candidates has come from out of state.
The new DFL complaint cites three companies that combined have provided nearly $1.7 million in services for what the Melton-Meaux campaign describes as direct mail, television advertising and strategic consulting.