Keith Ellison fires back The Star Tribune has front-paged the story that the Muslim American Society (MAS) paid for Congress member Keith Ellison's hajj or pilgrimage trip to Mecca in 2008. According to the Strib and the Minnesota Independent. MAS "received nearly $900,000 in taxpayer funds in 2006 and 2007 for renting space to Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy (TIZA), a school that receives public funds."
Republicans immediately jumped on the story, demanding and apology and saying that "Taxpayer money intended for students must never be used for a politician's personal travel." To be clear, the taxpayer money in question was rent paid in 2006 and 2007 to a holding company that owns the TIZA building. That holding company then made donations to MAS in 2006 and 2007. In 2008, after these payments had stopped, MAS gave money for the trip.
In a letter to the editor to the Strib, Ellison pointed out that he had carefully sought and received approval from the House Ethics Committee before the trip, and had "followed the spirit and the letter of the House rules, as communicated to me by House ethics lawyers, at every step of the process." Furthermore, he wrote:
Privacy is not undiscovered dishonesty. Some things are private. For example, family and religion. My trip, which was not at taxpayer expense, and paid for by a nonprofit organization that does not lobby, was handled according to the House rules, which balance disclosure and privacy.
HERC decision delayed In a surprise move, the HERC garbage burner's request to increase the amount of garbage burned was put on hold for the moment. Covanta and Hennepin County officials told the Minneapolis City Council Zoning and Planning Committee that they will be going to the state for changes to the burner's air emissions permit before seeking local approval for increased burning. The city Planning Commission had already denied the application for a 21 percent increase in burning.
According to the Star Tribune, "state officials may be reconsidering an earlier determination that further environmental review for the expansion isn't needed."