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House Ethics Office: ‘Substantial Reason’ To Believe Illinois Dem Offered Illegal Bribe

Marie Newman offered six-figure job to potential political rival during successful congressional run

Rep. Marie Newman (D., Ill.) / Getty Images
• January 24, 2022 5:15 pm

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Congressional investigators say there is "substantial reason to believe" Illinois Democrat Marie Newman illegally bribed a potential primary opponent to keep him out of the race.

According to a House Office of Congressional Ethics report, Newman likely "promised federal employment to a primary opponent for the purpose of procuring political support," a violation of federal law. The finding comes roughly seven months after Newman acknowledged in federal court that she signed a contract during her successful 2020 congressional campaign promising a six-figure job in her office to local Palestinian activist Iymen Chehade.

While Chehade claimed Newman offered him the job to keep him from challenging her in a primary race, Newman denied the charge, contending that she was unaware of Chehade's intention to run for office. Emails obtained by House investigators, however, show that Chehade explicitly told Newman he "agree[d] not to announce or submit his candidacy for election to Congressional Representative of the 3rd District of Illinois" in exchange for Newman's job offer. In his email, Chehade also asked Newman for a "commitment to endorse" him once Newman decided to leave office.

"Hi there," Newman replied in late 2018. "Took some time to digest the doc. Most of it looks good." The House ethics office's report notes that the evidence "strongly contradicts Rep. Newman's testimony that she did not have any knowledge of Mr. Chehade's intent to run for congressional office."

"The OCE found that Mr. Chehade's policy expertise was not the only reason she contracted to employ him in the future," the report states. "Instead, Rep. Newman likely was motivated to enter the agreement to avoid competing against Mr. Chehade in the next Democratic primary."

Newman and Chehade went on to sign the contract, which promised Chehade a senior role in Newman's office that did not require him to "maintain specific hours," paid him a $140,000 salary, and gave him "complete discretion about the selection and employment termination of staff members under his supervision." When Newman won election to Congress months later and refused to honor the agreement, Chehade sued the Democrat for breach of contract.Emails obtained by House investigators, however, show that Chehade explicitly told Newman he "agree[d] not to announce or submit his candidacy for election to Congressional Representative of the 3rd District of Illinois" in exchange for Newman's job offer.

During an interview with the Office of Congressional Ethics, Newman campaign manager Ben Hardin acknowledged that the contract seemed "odd" and that Newman told him he would "have to deal with this." Newman's office did not return a request for comment.

Probes into Newman's apparent violation will now move to the House Committee on Ethics for further review. The committee confirmed it will "review the matter" in a Monday statement.