Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN), a Muslim, traveled to Saudi Arabia to visit Mecca late last year to make the hajj pilgrimage as required under the tenets of Islam. This was a personal and private trip, Ellison claimed in a July 23rd letter to the Minnesota Star-Tribune. He reported to the House Ethics Committee that his trip to Mecca was funded by the Minnesota chapter of the Muslim American Society (MAS-MN), a non-profit organization.
Ellison's letter responded to a Star-Tribune report about the MAS-funding of his trip. The story also identified concern about how MAS-MN received "grants" totaling almost $900,000 from the MAS-MN Property Holding Corporation, a subordinate entity of MAS-MN. The holding corporation collected state rent money for the Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy (TIZA), a public charter school run by MAS-MN. The grants from the holding company to MAS-MN nearly equaled the amount it received in state rent money for 2006-07.
Taxpayer money did not finance his trip, Ellison said in his letter to the editor. The Star-Tribune cited a spokesman for TIZA who claimed MAS-MN stopped receiving Minnesota state rent money through its property holding corporation after 2007, and since Ellison made his trip to Mecca the end of 2008, no TIZA-related state money could have been involved in paying for Ellison's travel. Since 2008, the spokesman said, TIZA rent money from the state was paid to an entity called the Minnesota Education Trust.
Minnesota corporate records, however, show that Minnesota Education Trust is located at the same St. Paul address as the MAS-MN Property Holding Corporation. IRS non-profit tax returns for the Trust identified two organization officials. The president is listed as Asif Rahman. The other official is Asad Zaman.
The two men are listed in similar position on tax forms for the MAS-MN Property Holding Corporation. Zaman also is listed as the executive director for the TIZA charter school on its tax forms. On all those tax returns, TIZA claimed to have no affiliation with any other organizations. It also claimed none of its organization officials shared a relationship with officials in any other organization. Yet another TIZA board member, Hesham Hussein, is also a corporate official of the Muslim American Society in Minnesota. Rahman and Zaman are officials of the MAS-MN Property Holding Corporation and the Minnesota Education Trust. Rahman was previously identified as a local official of Islamic Relief, the charter school sponsor for TIZA.
The Minnesota Education Trust, in the tax form section for its stated primary purpose, claims "Charter School." Curiously, in the related section requiring a detailed description of its exempt purpose, the trust states:
"Charter school to promote the message of Islam to Muslims and non Muslims and promote understanding between them promote interfaaith (sic) activities and dialouge (sic) support schoools (sic) community centers mosques and orther (sic) organizations that serve the goals of the organization."
Apart from the education Trust needing some elementary spelling education, it might be inferred from its tax return that the Trust is, in fact, TIZA. Its officials are also officials of TIZA and the TIZA sponsor. The Trust boldly claims it is a charter school that exists "to promote the message of Islam," "to promote interfaith activities" and to "support...mosques." Charter schools are public schools that receive taxpayer money and are not supposed to be sectarian in nature. Yet the Trust/TIZA claims it exists to do just that - be sectarian.
Back to the issue of the Trust taking over the funding process to receive public money for TIZA rent. The trust supposedly received some $315,000 in state rent money from the property holding corporation as part of that funding transfer arrangement. Yet, the Trust and the holding company are administered by the same people and one of those is the director of TIZA. And another board member of TIZA is a MAS official. Yet TIZA consistently claimed no affiliation with any organizations on its tax returns.
Money is fungible. There's no way to know whether any of the state TIZA rent funds that were processed through the holding corporation to MAS-MN have been carried over to 2008 when Ellison made his Hajj.
A thorough review of the financial records for all these entities may provide answers.