Rep. Marie Newman settles lawsuit alleging she bribed potential opponent

Illinois Democrat could still face ethics inquiries

Although the lawsuit against her has been dismissed, Rep. Marie Newman could still face ethics inquiries.  (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Although the lawsuit against her has been dismissed, Rep. Marie Newman could still face ethics inquiries. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted July 20, 2021 at 1:20pm

Rep. Marie Newman has agreed to settle a lawsuit alleging she bribed a potential primary opponent not to run against her, putting to rest a bizarre episode in Illinois Democratic politics.

Iymen Chehade had alleged that he and Newman entered into an employment contract in December 2018 that said if Newman won the congressional race in Illinois’ 3rd District in 2020, Chehade would be hired in her office and paid between $135,000 and $140,000 annually.

“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 said. 

“Congresswoman Newman and Chehade have resolved their dispute and the lawsuits have been dismissed by agreement,” a spokesperson for Marie Newman for Congress said in a statement to CQ Roll Call.

“The parties have resolved their dispute and the lawsuit has been dismissed by agreement,” Rima Kapitan, a lawyer representing Chehade, said in a statement to CQ Roll Call.

The lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, was dismissed with prejudice on July 16, meaning it cannot be refiled. The financial terms of the settlement were not disclosed in public court filings. Neither Newman nor Chehade responded to requests for more detail on the settlement.

Newman challenged Rep. Dan Lipinski in 2018 for the Democratic nomination but was unsuccessful. She then started laying the groundwork for another challenge of Lipinski in 2020.

After Newman won the Democratic primary race in March 2020, she told Chehade she would not fulfill the contract.

In May, when CQ Roll Call asked for a comment on the lawsuit, a Newman spokesperson said the latest claims were “nothing more than a desperate grab for money.”

In a May filing, Newman’s lawyer in her official capacity as a member of Congress, House General Counsel Douglas Letter, acknowledged that the contract was signed by Newman but she did so as a private citizen, not as a member of Congress. The reasoning that follows is that Newman in her private capacity could not bind Newman in her public capacity.

“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.

Although the lawsuit against her has been dismissed, Newman could still face ethics inquiries. The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust filed a complaint against her with the Office of Congressional Ethics. If a member is suspected to have engaged in bribery or interfered with a federal election, that could result in an investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics or the House Ethics Committee into possible violations of House rules and federal law.