Marie Newman accused of bribing potential primary opponent not to run

Newman is being represented by House counsel in suit regarding Chicago-area seat

Marie Newman (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Marie Newman (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted May 26, 2021 at 7:54pm

Rep. Marie Newman persuaded a potential primary opponent not to run against her by offering him a six-figure job in her congressional office upon her victory, a contract the Illinois Democrat violated, a lawsuit filed by Iymen Chehade alleges.

“In an effort to induce Chehade not to run against her in the primary, Newman offered Chehade employment as Foreign Policy Advisor and Legislative or District Director,” the lawsuit states.

Chehade alleges that he and Newman entered into an employment contract in December of 2018 that said if Newman won her congressional race in Illinois’ 3rd District, Chehade would be hired in her office and paid a salary “of no less than between $135,000 and $140,000 per year.”

Newman won the primary in March 2020 but later told Chehade she did not plan to fulfill the contract, according to the lawsuit. The agreement would have also given Chehade a minimum of three weeks vacation and Newman would have had to try to provide Chehade a private office if possible.

The lawsuit, which was first filed in January in Cook County, Ill., Circuit Court, was subsequently filed in February in the Northern District of Illinois, a federal court. The Washington Free Beacon has reported on the lawsuit. The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics.

“Mr. Chehade’s latest claims are not only completely fictitious but frankly ludicrous, and they represent nothing more than a desperate grab for money,” Pat Mullane, a Newman campaign spokesperson, said in an emailed statement.

“While Mr. Chehade sought a job with Ms.Newman, he was not hired because he not only misrepresented his qualifications but was ill-suited for a senior role in a congressional office, as demonstrated by his interactions with Ms. Newman and her campaign volunteers,” the statement said. “Furthermore, Mr. Chehade conveyed to Ms. Newman months before the election that he did not want to work with her anymore. Since then, he has filed a frivolous lawsuit and made multiple false statements in an attempt to seek money from the campaign.”

Newman’s lawyer, Douglas Letter from the House’s Office of General Counsel, acknowledged the contract was signed by Newman in a filing earlier this month.

“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 in the filing.

Chehade, who is listed as an adjunct at Columbia College Chicago, did not respond to a request for comment.

If a member is suspected to have engaged in bribery or interfered in a federal election, that could trigger an ethics investigation into possible House Rules violations and potentially open them up to criminal liability.

Tom Rust, House Ethics Committee spokesperson, had no comment. William Beaman, an Office of Congressional Ethics spokesperson, did not return a request for comment.