The Board of the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) unanimously voted to refer an inquiry into Democrat Rep. Marie Newman (D-IL) to the House Ethics Committee after finding “substantial reason to believe” she bribed a possible primary opponent.
The Board wrote:
The Board recommends that the Committee further review the above allegation concerning Rep. Newman because there is substantial reason to believe that Rep. Newman may have promised federal employment to a primary opponent for the purpose of procuring political support.
According to the report, Newman allegedly promised Palestinian-American professor Iymen Chehade a job in her congressional office as a chief foreign policy adviser in exchange for his promise not to run for office against her during the 2020 campaign.
Newman, who unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 2018, offered Chehade the job soon after her failed campaign. The two signed an employment contract in December 2018, where Chehade’s annual salary would be around $140,000. Newman said she offered Chehade the job due to his vast wealth of knowledge on foreign policy.
“In that meeting he had started to talk about Palestine. It was clear that he had very specific knowledge around Palestine and Israel that I needed. He had been an expert on it,” Newman told the ethics body in a September 2021 interview.
However, OCE’s inquiry discovered emails between the two that show Newman’s intent in offering the job was to weaken her field of potential primary competitors.
“The evidence gathered during the OCE’s review strongly contradicts Rep. Newman’s testimony that she did not have any knowledge of Mr. Chehade’s intent to run for congressional office,” the Board wrote.
Chehade sued Newman in January 2021 after she refused to hire him on her congressional staff. Newman’s lawyers acknowledged the employment contract violated House employment and federal contracting rules in a motion to dismiss Chehade’s lawsuit.
The parties eventually settled in June 2021 and included a nondisclosure agreement, which Chehade cited as a reason not to sit for an interview with the ethics body. However, the Board voted to subpoena Chehade in October 2021.