Politics

Democratic Rep. Marie Newman Allegedly Bribed Former Primary Opponent To Drop Out Of Race, Ethics Investigation Finds

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Michael Ginsberg Congressional Reporter
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Democratic Illinois Rep. Marie Newman allegedly offered a potential 2020 primary opponent a job in her office in exchange for the opponent’s decision not to run, the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) found Monday.

Newman, who defeated fellow Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski in a heated primary, offered Iymen Chehade a job within her congressional office in exchange for an understanding that he would not enter the race, a lawsuit filed by Chehade in May 2021 alleged. Such an agreement would violate rules regulating the hiring of congressional staffers and contractors, and would therefore be null and void.

Chehade, a Columbia College professor, was hired to advise Newman on issues related to the Israel-Palestine conflict. However, in addition to his foreign policy understanding, “Newman likely was motivated to enter the agreement to avoid competing against Mr. Chehade in the next Democratic primary,” according to the OCE final report. During discussions about Chehade’s hiring, the professor asked Newman to agree to a term-limits pledge and commit to endorsing him once she stepped down.

Although Newman later claimed to the ethics office to be “outraged and incensed” by the request, she responded to Chehade’s email that she thought “most of [his proposal] looks good.”

Newman argued through House Legal Counsel Douglas Letter, who represented her in the case, that she could not be held to the provisions agreed to between her and Chehade.

“Although the agreement was signed by Congresswoman Newman in her personal capacity (because she had no official capacity in which to act before her election), it purports to bind her in her official capacity to hire Mr. Chehade in her Congressional office,” Letter said at the time.

OCE forwarded the complaint to the House Ethics Committee by a six to zero vote. The Ethics Committee has the power to subpoena witnesses, as well as recommend a punishment for any guilty parties. (RELATED: Rashida Tlaib Violated Campaign Finance Law, House Ethics Committee Unanimously Rules)

Newman denied wrongdoing in a response to the Ethics Committee.

“The factual and legal allegations were fatally defective,” Newman’s attorneys wrote, “spurred by the charges of an adverse third party, and prodded by an ideologically hostile group.”

Chehade is currently running in the new Third District, while Newman is facing down Rep. Sean Casten in a member versus member primary.

The communications vice chair for the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Newman is often associated with the far left “Squad,” due to her endorsement from New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She was one of eight Democrats to vote against funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, and is a supporter of the Green New Deal.