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.