House Ethics Office investigators have reported “substantial reason to believe” that Rep. Marie Newman (D-IL) acted illegally by bribing an opponent to stay out of a primary contest for the House seat.
The report provides that Newman probably promised a federal job to a primary opponent to keep the opponent from running against her and procure the opponent’s support. If true, that act would constitute a violation of federal law. The report follows an acknowledgment last year by Newman in federal court that she signed a contract during her 2020 campaign promising a job in her congressional office to Palestinian activist Iymen Chehade.
When Chehade claimed that he was offered the job to stay out of the primary contest against Newman, she denied the allegation and said she did not know Chehade was planning to run against her.
However, investigators have obtained emails that show Chehade told Newman that he agreed not to announce or file to run in the primary for the House seat for the 3rd District of Illinois in return for the job offer. He also asked for Newman’s commitment to endorse him for the seat when she decided to leave office.
Newman allegedly replied to that email by saying it took her “some time to digest the doc” and that “most of it looks good.”
The House ethics report points out that the email evidence “strongly contradicts” Newman’s earlier sworn testimony that she did not know anything about Chehade’s intentions about running against her. The report concludes that Newman was “likely” motivated to enter the agreement with Chehade to avoid competing against him in the primary.
The parties went on to sign the contract promising Chehade a “senior role” on Newman’s staff that would pay him a $140,000 salary. He was not required to keep specific working hours and “complete discretion” regarding selecting staffers under his supervision.
After Newman won the 2020 general election, she refused to honor the agreement. Chehade sued her for breach of contract.
When interviewed by House ethics investigators, Newman’s campaign manager Ben Hardin admitted that the contract seemed “odd” to him. He also admitted that Newman had told him that he would have to “deal with this.”
The report will now go to the House Committee on Ethics for further action.