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Illinois Dem Under Investigation for Bribing Prospective Primary Opponent

Marie Newman acknowledged in court she promised a six-figure job to potential political rival

• December 9, 2021 5:50 pm

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The House Ethics Committee is investigating Democrat Marie Newman after the Illinois congresswoman admitted in court that she promised a six-figure job to a potential political rival.

The committee announced the investigation in a Thursday afternoon press release, which comes roughly six months after Newman settled a breach of contract lawsuit with local Palestinian activist Iymen Chehade. During the case, Newman's taxpayer-funded attorneys conceded to a federal judge that the Democrat signed an employment agreement that assured Chehade a top job in her office should she win election to Congress, legal filings show. Chehade's attorneys argued that Newman extended the offer as a bribe to keep the activist out of a 2020 primary race.

"Chehade foreseeably relied on this promise by refraining from running for office, and he then lost the opportunity … to serve in a congressional position in her office," his attorneys said. Newman's contract promised Chehade a senior role in the Democrat's office that did not require him to "maintain specific hours at the office," paid him a $140,000 salary, and gave him "complete discretion about the selection and employment termination of staff members under his supervision."

Newman's office acknowledged the investigation in a statement, noting that the committee's inquiry stems from a "dismissed lawsuit." But that lawsuit was dismissed "by agreement" following Newman's settlement with Chehade, the Democrat's office confirmed in July. At that time, Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust executive director Kendra Arnold told the Washington Free Beacon that congressional investigators could use facts from the civil case against Newman.

"Civil liability and government ethics and criminal liability are two completely separate things. The civil court case is between her and the individual," said Arnold, who in May filed a complaint against Newman with the Office of Congressional Ethics. "Whether they resolve their personal differences has nothing to do with the ethics case and her issues with the federal government. The facts in the civil case show the ethics concerns are significant."

Newman's office said it "is happy to help throughout" the investigation process.

"We look forward to resolving the matter," a spokesperson for Newman told CQ Roll Call.