Dem Rep. Signed Contract Promising Job to Rival, Watchdog Says

·2 min read
Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty
Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty

Rep. Marie Newman (D-IL) may have promised a potential primary opponent a job on her staff in exchange for his political support, according to a new report by the Office of Congressional Ethics.

The report alleges Newman promised to give Iymen Chehade, her former campaign adviser, a job on her congressional staff if she won her 2020 election. Per a copy of an apparent contract between the two, Newman guaranteed she would employ Chehade as her chief foreign policy adviser, and either district director or legislative director for the entirety of her time in Congress.

The contract set Chehade’s salary at somewhere between $135,000 and $140,000 per year—a whopping total in terms of pay for congressional staffers.

But when she won, she didn’t hire Chehade and he sued.

Newman eventually settled with Chehade and both parties signed non-disclosure agreements, per the report. Chehade has refused to cooperate with the OCE’s investigation into the deal, citing his NDA.

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The report notes that Newman wanted Chehade on her campaign staff because he brought extensive foreign policy experience to the table. Newman said she believed a lack of expertise in foreign affairs—particularly on issues regarding Israel and Palestine—contributed to her loss while running for Congress in 2018.

But that doesn’t seem to be the only reason, the OCE report said.

“​​Rep. Newman likely was motivated to enter the agreement to avoid competing against Mr. Chehade in the next Democratic primary,” the report reads. Newman claims to have had no discussions with Chehade on his interest in running for Congress, but a 2018 email from Chehade to Newman discussed his agreement “not to announce or submit his candidacy for election to Congressional Representative of the 3rd District of Illinois” as part of an unused version of their agreement.

“In exchange, Newman will hire Chehade as her Chief Foreign Policy Advisor,” the email read.

Newman is currently in the midst of a member-on-member primary against fellow Democratic Rep. Sean Casten (IL) due to redistricting. A spokesperson for Newman said in a statement, “Recently, a right-wing organization filed a politically-motivated complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) regarding a dismissed lawsuit. The materials produced during the OCE's review overwhelmingly demonstrate that the ethics complaint is completely meritless.”

The issue now heads to the House Ethics Committee. A statement from the Ethics Committee specified that further review “does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred.”

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