Bribe Payments Flow from Illinois Dem's Campaign Account

Rep. Marie Newman (D., Ill.) / Wikimedia Commons
April 19, 2022

Democratic congresswoman Marie Newman (Ill.) paid another $24,500 in donor funds to a political rival she bribed to keep out of her primary race.

Newman's disbursements to Palestinian activist and terrorist sympathizer Iymen Chehade came over a three-month period, from January to March 2022, the Democrat's latest campaign finance disclosure shows. Newman has paid Chehade nearly $80,000 since the pair settled a breach of contract lawsuit in late June, which stemmed from an employment agreement Newman signed promising Chehade a six-figure job in her office in exchange for his commitment not to run against her.

After the Washington Free Beacon reported on those payments, fellow Illinois Democrat Sean Casten—who is running against Newman in the state's Sixth Congressional District—called on Newman to release the details of her settlement with Chehade. But the ongoing scandal does more than jeopardize Newman's political standing in the race. Federal law prohibits a candidate from promising employment "for the purpose of procuring political support," and the House Office of Congressional Ethics says it has "substantial reason to believe" Newman did just that.

"Public service is a trust, and our entire democracy is jeopardized when voters have reason to believe that any elected officials are placing our personal self-interest above the public good," Casten said in a statement. "It has been over five months since the nonpartisan Office of Congressional Ethics unanimously voted to further the investigation into Marie Newman. Five months of silence is unacceptable. It is time for her to level with the public."

Newman's campaign claims its payments to Chehade stem merely from his role as its "director of foreign policy and research." Less than a year ago, however, the campaign publicly disparaged Chehade, calling him "disrespectful," "very hard to get along with," and "ill-suited for a senior role in a congressional office."

Under federal campaign finance rules, Newman must pay Chehade for "bona fide services" at a rate that does not exceed "fair market value." Newman's arrangement with the activist may not fit that description. When the Chicago Sun-Times asked Newman to provide examples of Chehade's work, the outlet received just 21 pages of foreign policy briefings, meaning Chehade earned thousands of dollars per page. Chehade is also running his own congressional campaign in a nearby Illinois district, casting doubt on his ability to work significant hours for Newman. Despite those limitations, Chehade is by far the Newman campaign's highest-paid staffer.

In addition to Chehade's work for the Newman campaign, the activist serves as an adjunct professor at Columbia College Chicago. In 2015, Chehade helped facilitate a panel that brought Rasmea Odeh to campus. A convicted terrorist, Odeh was sentenced to life in prison for her role in a 1969 Jerusalem bombing that killed two college students. In a now-deleted tweet, Chehade praised her as "extraordinary."

Newman and Casten are set to square off at the polls in late June. Casten holds a significant financial advantage—he has $2 million on hand to Newman's $500,000.