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The House Ethics Committee is investigating whether Rep. Marie Newman illegally promised a congressional position to a political opponent before her 2020 election — a claim the freshman congresswoman strongly disputes.
The House Ethics Committee unveiled on Monday 13 page report from the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) recommending that the committee look into Newman, D-Ill. The report alleges she potentially violated federal law prohibiting candidates from promising a job “nomination” in exchange for political support.
Newman’s office accused the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), a watchdog organization that investigates almost exclusively Democrats, to file a “politically motivated” complaint that spurred the investigation into the congresswoman. The group filed a lawsuit against Newman in May, prompting a month-long investigation by the OCE, which referred Newman to the ethics committee.
“The documents produced during the OCE review overwhelmingly demonstrate that the ethics complaint is completely without merit,” added a spokesperson for the MP.
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The OCE alleged that after an unsuccessful congressional run in 2018, Newman and a man named Iyman Chehade signed a contract whereby Newman would hire Chehade to his congressional office if she won in 2020, as long as he did not run. not against her.
“Early in her 2020 campaign, Rep. Newman made certain promises to Mr. Chehade regarding future employment in his Congressional office. These promises were reduced to a contract signed by both parties,” the report said. ‘ECO.
The promises included Chehade choosing between two jobs in Newman’s future office and a host of perks he would receive. He did not explicitly state that Chehade had agreed not to run for Congress.
Newman eventually won his race. But she broke the contract.
“In 2021, after Rep. Newman failed to hire Mr. Chehade, he filed a lawsuit to enforce the contract, claiming that he had decided not to run for the 2020 congressional seat because of his trusting to his promise to hire him as a Foreign Policy Advisor and either District Director or Legislative Director in his Congressional office,” the OCE report states.
Newman told OCE that the only reason she courted Chehade as a potential staffer was because of his expertise on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, an issue she said she didn’t fully understand. Newman’s attorney also said the couple later argued over Chehade’s hardline anti-Israel political stances, which led them to stop communicating in mid-2019.
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But, the OCE wrote, “evidence gathered during the OCE review strongly contradicts Rep. Newman’s testimony that she had no knowledge of Mr. Chehade’s intention to run for office. in Congress”.
This included a document sent from Chehade to Newman during their contract negotiations which stated that part of the agreement was that Cheahade would not run for the seat in Illinois’ 3rd congressional district.
Newman told the OCE she was “outraged and furious” as well as “irritated” by the email sent in October 2018, and called him angrily about the email. later in the day. But a few days later, Newman said she agreed with the broad outlines of the proposal and was just concerned about the “phraseology”.
The couple signed the contract in December 2018 and Chehade sued Newman in early 2020 after he refused to hire her for the position she had promised. The lawsuit was eventually settled in a settlement that included a nondisclosure agreement. But it was the legal action that drew attention to the dispute and led to the Complaint DONE.
Newman, meanwhile, submitted a scathing response to the OCE report through a lawyer.
“The OCE has prejudged the case from the outset. Despite the Member’s full cooperation, the facts and the law disproving the allegation and the OCE’s inability to obtain further relevant evidence, the OCE fires her anyway,” wrote her attorney Brian Svoboda. “To hide the fatal flaws in the referral, the OCE completely ignores the exculpatory evidence provided by the MP, withholds it from the submissions and records the legal flaws in a footnote.”
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Among the evidence that Svoboda says the committee ignored is the fact that aside from that proposal in an email, Chehade never made a public statement — or a private statement in documents provided by Newman. — referring to a possible race for Congress. He also did not live in the same congressional district as Newman.
Svoboda also notes that the contract contains no clause about Chehade running for Congress and includes a line saying it “supersedes” any other agreement the couple has previously made.
Further, the response to the OCE report states that when “Newman signed the deal with Iymen Chehade on December 26, 2018 – nearly a month before she filed with the FEC, and nearly four months before she announced her candidacy – she was not a “candidate” under “federal law”.
The committee says Newman was openly planning a run for Congress in 2020 by the fall of 2018 — as evidenced by the deal itself.
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But Newman’s attorney says that’s irrelevant because she hadn’t yet formally filed her candidacy. She also had not raised or spent at least $5,000 on a campaign, and “one cannot become a ‘candidate’ under 18 USC §599 before crossing the $5,000 threshold.”
The House Ethics Committee said in a press release that it would not comment further on its investigation of Newman. But he said that “the mere fact of conducting a further review of a referral, and any mandatory disclosure of such further review, does not in itself indicate that a violation has occurred, nor does it reflects a judgment on behalf of the Committee”.