- The Office of Congressional Ethics voted 6-0 to find reason to believe Rep. Newman bribed a political opponent.
- The case now goes to the House Ethics Committee, where it will be reviewed by her peers.
- Newman allegedly promised Iymen Chehade a senior position in her office if he didn’t run against her in a primary.
The Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) said on Monday that it had found reason to believe that Democratic Rep. Marie Newman of Illinois offered a job to a potential primary opponent in exchange for a job in her congressional office. The body voted 6-0 to refer the case to the House Ethics Committee on October 15, 2021.
After unsuccessfully challenging moderate Rep. Dan Lipinski in the 2018 Democratic primary, Newman chose to again challenge the conservative Democrat in the following election. And she began making those preparations soon after her loss.
According to a report released on Monday, Newman may have promised a potential primary challenger, Palestinian-American professor Iymen Chehade, a job as her “foreign policy advisor and either District Director or Legislative Director” in a potential future congressional office after the two met in 2018.
Newman told the body that she sought to hire Chehade because of his knowledge on foreign and Arab-American affairs, which she felt was a shortcoming of her 2018 campaign. “It was clear that he had very specific knowledge around Palestine and Israel that I needed. He had been an expert on it,” she told investigators.
The Illinois progressive claims Chehade’s potential 2020 plans did not factor into their discussions, but documents she herself provided to the body seemed to contradict her testimony: in a draft contract attached to an October 2018 email, Chehade says he will not “announce or submit his candidacy” for that district, and that “in exchange” he would be hired as Newman’s chief foreign policy advisor.
Newman, for her part, claimed to be “outraged and incensed” by the allegation, and her response to OCE pointed out that the “agreement was written to exclude the possibility of any agreement on candidacy or any other subject.”
The two ultimately signed a contract in December 2018 laying out the terms of the agreement, including a salary for Chehade ranging between $135,000 and $140,000 annually. That contract did not include the apparent quid-pro-quo.
But after that job did not materialize for Chehade, he sued Newman in January 2021 to enforce the contract they’d signed. Newman’s legal counsel, in seeking to dismiss the case, acknowledged to the House General Counsel that her contract “was violative of House employment and federal contracting rules,” according to the OCE report.
That lawsuit was then settled in June 2021 and included a nondisclosure agreement, which Chehade cited in declining to sit for an interview with the ethics body. In October, the group voted to subpoena him.
But in May 2021, the conservative Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust filed a complaint with OCE, spurring the congressional inquiry. Newman’s communications director, Pat Mullane, seized on that point in describing the complaint as driven by politics.
“Recently, a right-wing organization filed a politically-motivated complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) regarding a dismissed lawsuit,” he said in a statement to Insider. “The materials produced during the OCE’s review overwhelmingly demonstrate that the ethics complaint is completely meritless.”
Mullane also pointed to a line in OCE’s statement noting that further reviews, as the body has suggested, are not by themselves indicative of an ethics violation.