WASHINGTON (AP) — A congressional ethics watchdog has concluded that U.S. Rep. Marie Newman of Illinois may have violated federal law, prompting reviews from the House Ethics Committee.
An investigative report from the Office of Congressional Ethics released Monday detailed a “substantial reason to believe” that Newman, a Democrat, promised federal employment to a political opponent.
Though the ethics office conducts the initial review and makes recommendations, only the House Ethics Committee has the power to punish a lawmaker for wrongdoing. The committee said in a statement Monday that it would review the reports and investigate further.
The allegations against Newman surfaced out of a legal dispute involving an employment contract between the Illinois Democrat and Iymen Chehade, a former foreign policy advisor during her successful House campaign in 2020. Newman a progressive lawmaker, unseated Chicago-area Rep. Dan Lipinski, a staunch abortion opponent and one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress at the time.
An attorney representing Newman told the committee in December that the congresswoman “cooperates completely with the review,” but, that OCE “has prejudged the matter from the beginning.”
The ethics office report says that at the start of her campaign, Newman made Chehade “certain promises about future employment,” in her congressional office. “Those promises were reduced to a contract signed by both parties,” in December 2018, the report reads.
When Newman did not hire Chehade, he filed a lawsuit to enforce the contract. He claimed that he decided to not run for the congressional seat in 2020 because of the promise that Newman would hire him as a foreign policy advisor during the campaign and then a district or legislative director once she took office. In a motion to dismiss the case, Newman's counsel acknowledged that her contract was in violation of House employment and federal contracting rules.
Newman ended up settling the case with her former adviser and the two signed nondisclosure agreements as part of a settlement. The OEC recommended that the House committee subpoena Chehade and political consulting group LBH Chicago as it conducts its review of its findings.
A spokesperson for Newman said Monday that the OCE review stemmed from a “politically-motivated” complaint from a right-wing organization and that the materials produced during the probe “overwhelmingly demonstrate that the ethics complaint is completely meritless.”
Newman is a former management consultant who started and led an anti-bullying nonprofit. During her campaign for the House, she argued Lipinski no longer reflected the views of the district, which backed Sen. Bernie Sanders, a democratic socialist, over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential primary. She called herself the “true Democrat” during the race, and said she would fight for Medicare for All, abortion rights and a path to citizenship for people in the U.S. illegally.