Illinois Dem in trouble for offering job to rival to avoid primary challenge

(AP Photo by Sara Burnett)

The House Ethics Committee has been asked to investigate reports of alleged misconduct by Chicago area Democratic congresswoman Marie Newman. The Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) has asked the committee to look into allegations that Newman offered a job to a political rival, a college art professor who had been planning to mount a primary campaign in the same district where Newman was running. The implication is that the offer was made to boost her chances of taking that seat in the House by removing the challenger from the field of play. Based on the evidence presented thus far, the rival, Iymen Hamman Chehade, appears to have a valid complaint, but Newman likely won’t be facing claims of tampering with the electoral process. Instead, she may be found to have committed a breach of contract. (NY Post)

A congresswoman from Illinois is in hot water for allegedly promising a job on her staff to get a political rival not to run against her.

The Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) recommended Monday that the House Ethics Committee further examine the allegations that Rep. Marie Newman, a Chicago-area Democrat, offered Iymen Hamman Chehade a congressional office post as an incentive not to run against her.

The post would have paid allotted the Columbia College and Art Institute of Chicago professor, between $135,000 and $140,000 a year starting in January 2021.

Congresswoman Newman almost certainly can’t be found guilty of any sort of offense for simply offering Mr. Chehade a job. She would have been unable to force him to accept that offer and if he decided to take the job that would have been his own decision. In fact, removing political rivals with alternate job offers is something of a tradition in American politics. Particularly in the earlier days of the country, Presidents sometimes nominated their perceived rivals for positions on the Supreme Court, removing them from the playing field permanently.

The major problem for Newman is that she didn’t make the job offer to Chehade with a handshake in private. They wrote up a contract in 2020 in which she formally agreed that a job offer would be on the way if she won the seat. But after she had won and set up her office in January of 2021, she failed to deliver on the promise of a job offer. Chehade went on to sue Newman in a case that was settled out of court.

Newman’s attorney attempted to offer an explanation as to why she failed to deliver, but it’s not a very convincing story. He said that Newman comes from “a business background in startups” where jobs are often offered for positions that do not yet exist and even with organizations that may not exist for as much as two years. That may indeed be true, but the “organization” where Chehade was supposed to be placed did exist as soon as she was sworn in.

Making matters worse, when Chehade’s suit was settled, documents show that Newman acknowledged that her offer “violated House employment and federal contracting rules.” The Ethics Committee likely won’t have to look much further than that to find what amounts to a guilty plea.

That doesn’t mean that Newman is necessarily on the way out the door. The Democrats are unlikely to eject one of their own members when their hold on the majority in the House is already hanging by a thread. But it’s possible that the committee could recommend some form of censure or formal rebuke. There’s no official word yet as to whether or not Mr. Chehade will seek to finish his revenge plot by turning around and primarying Newman this year anyway. It would be rather humorous if he pulled it off, though.