The Seattle connection: All politics is global

The saying used to go, “All politics is local.” Not anymore.

To be competitive in Minnesota politics, at least within the state’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) party, you need to have a nationwide fundraising network.

Case in point is freshman state Rep. Samakab Hussien (DFL-St. Paul). Rep. Hussein took over the seat (65A) held by six-term Rep. Rena Moran, now a Ramsey County commissioner.

The Sahan Journal reports that Hussein previously served as campaign manager for Moran. In only his second attempt at public office (he reportedly ran for city council years ago), Hussein easily won party endorsement last March and faced no opposition in the August primary election.

Before running for the state House, Hussein was the founder and CEO of Twins Medical Inc., a St. Paul-based medical equipment supply company. According to records at the state Department of Human Services, Twins Medical has taken in more than $11 million in payments from the state’s Medical Assistance program in the nine years since the company’s founding in 2014.

In November, Hussein cruised to victory with more than 71 percent of the vote.

Despite only token opposition, Hussein left nothing to chance. In his first House run, Hussein hauled in an impressive fundraising total of more than $157,000. A Somali immigrant himself, Hussein relied on the Somali diaspora around the country to raise money.

He received one donation from Missouri, one from North Dakota, five from northern Virginia, and 21 donations from the state of Washington.

To that end, Hussein made a fundraising trip to Seattle in September, despite already having the election locked up. He posted his thanks for his warm Seattle reception on Facebook,

It turns out that he didn’t use up all the money raised, and donated the final $22,000 to the House DFL Caucus (with the last $12,000 labeled as “charitable contributions”).

One name jumps out from Hussein’s Seattle fundraiser in September: Shukri Olow, who contributed $500. At the time, she was herself a candidate for state House in Washington. Alas, she finished second in the November election.

Like Hussein, Olow’s run last year was her second attempt at public office. Like Hussein, Olow is a extraordinary fundraiser.

In her 2022 race for Legislative District 47, Olow raised $226,000. Of her contributors in that race, 27 were from Minnesota, including Hussein himself (good for $1,000) and Minneapolis city councilman Jamal Osman (in for $500).

Olow herself appears to have made two fundraising trips to Minneapolis: one in June and one in September 2022.

Three names jump out from her June fundraiser: Osman, Abdihakim Ahmed and Asha Jama. The last two are defendant Nos. 7 and 41 in the Feeding Our Future (FOF) case. Council member Osman’s wife ran an unrelated free-food charity in 2021.

In 2021, Olow ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the King County council. She raised more than $244,000 in that effort with 40 donations coming from Minnesota.

Hussein, Ahmed, and Jama also contributed to that Olow run. Joining them in 2021 were Salim Said, Abdinasir Abshir, Ahmed Ghedi, Mukhtar Shariff and Sharmarke Jama, defendant Nos. 3, 10, 13, 21, and 39 in the FOF case. An unindicted relative of No. 3 also gave.

Asha Jama’s (unindicted) spouse also gave to Olow, and listed as an address their Lakeville home, one of the properties subject to forfeiture in the FOF case.

A donor from Ohio matches the name of another defendant in the case, although it’s not clear whether they are the same person.

Speaking of Ohio, Olow flew out to Columbus in June 2021 for fundraising and enjoyed a meal at a popular restaurant owned by defendant No. 14 in the FOF case, according to Washington State campaign finance records.

KARE-11’s Lou Raguse calculates that Olow received $8,750 from eight defendants in the Feeding Our Future case; however, she was unaware of the connections.

It takes a village.