posted on: December 3, 2016

**This post, as a follow up to a post on December 1, 2016, provides additional context as to Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison who is a front-runner for chairman of the Democratic National Committee.


 

In 2009, the U.S. House ethics panel completed an investigation of Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, a front-runner for chairman of the Democratic National Committee, “after he failed to disclose that a group founded by members of the Muslim Brotherhood paid for him to make a pilgrimage to the Islamic holy site of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

“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.’”

(from: “Ellison reveals cost of trip to Mecca: $13.5K”, Star Tribune – Oct. 2009)

However, it is unclear whether the U.S. House ethics panel during their review was privy to information contained in an August 8, 2007 diplomatic cable which mentions — within the context of discussion of plans for relationship-building between Majlis Al-Shura and U.S. Congress — the intention of Majlis Al-Shura member Dr. Bandar bin Mohammed Al-Aiban in speaking to Political Counsel to extend an invitation to the annual Hajj to Representative Ellison — and if they also reviewed related information in other cables:

** Note: internal links in the following added by this author for terminology and source references/context

MAJLIS EAGER TO ENGAGE WITH CONGRESS; REQUESTS OFFICIAL INVITATIONS

https://www.wikileaks.com/plusd/cables/07RIYADH1659_a.html

“As Chair of the K.S.A.– U.S.A. Friendship Committee, Al-Aiban announced that he is developing a series of exchange visits to the U.S. Congress because there is a ‘need for greater contacts between Congress and the Majlis.’  He also confided that Minnesota Representative Keith Ellison, who accompanied Speaker Pelosi in April 2007, may be invited to take part in the annual Hajj.  Citing the current NOPEC legislation (ref A), Al-Aiban said it is vital to also bring ‘non-friends’ to Saudi Arabia.  In closing, Al-Aiban shared that he and a small delegation will be traveling to the U.S. in early October to prepare logistics for the planned visit of Majlis President Sheikh Dr. Salih bin Humaid in late 2007. Referring to House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s verbal invitation in April 2007 (ref B) for Humaid to visit Congress, Al-Aiban requested official invitations from Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in order to follow up on that invitation.”


If the House ethics panel did not, in fact, have this information for context during their review, it is this author’s opinion that members of the panel should reopen the investigation to ensure that all relevant background information is considered.  It appears that the House ethics panel’s initial review was focused on whether the Rep. Ellison’s travel expenses were reported according to procedure insofar as the nature of private or public business conducted during the trip. In light of all of the background context revealed in the diplomatic cables, especially the information regarding Al-Aiban’s statement that revealed it was Majlis Al-Shura’s intention to bring Rep. Ellison over for Hajj, there are other questions that arise as to procedure — for instance, about the source of the funding for the travel and whether it was channeled or arranged by a foreign government.