WASHINGTON — The House Ethics Committee announced Monday it has decided to extend an investigation into claims Rep. Marie Newman, D-Ill., promised a political rival a job so he wouldn’t run against her in the 2020 primary election, a potential violation of federal law.
The decision followed an investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics – a separate entity – concluding there was “substantial reason” to believe the allegation of political bribery.
Newman, a freshman congresswoman, is alleged to have offered a federal job to Iymen Chehade, a former policy adviser to her 2020 congressional campaign, in exchange for his political support, according to a report released by the office.
But Newman never hired Chehade and he sued to enforce the contract, claiming his decision not to run was based on the promise of a job, the OCE report read.
In a statement issued by her office Monday, Newman denied any wrongdoing.
“Recently, a right-wing organization filed a politically-motivated complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) regarding a dismissed lawsuit,” Newman’s spokesperson Pat Mullane said in a statement provided to USA TODAY. “The materials produced during the OCE’s review overwhelmingly demonstrate that the ethics complaint is completely meritless.”
Newman represents part of Chicago and its southwestern suburbs.
The OCE said Newman and Chehade signed a contract in 2018. Under its terms, Chehade would not run for the 2020 congressional seat and instead throw his support behind Newman in hopes of being hired as “a foreign policy advisor and either District Director or Legislative Director” in her congressional office, according to the report.
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“If Rep. Newman used her candidacy to promise federal employment, she may have violated federal law, House rules, or standards of conduct,” the report states.
Ethics committee chairman Theodore Deutch, D-Fla., and the top Republican, Jackie Walorski of Indiana, decided in December to extend the committee’s review of the charges against Newman, according to a statement released Monday.
“The Committee notes that the mere fact of conducting further review of a referral, and any mandatory disclosure of such further review, does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the Committee,” the press release read.
In a letter addressed to Deutch and Walorski in November, Newman’s attorney Brian G. Svoboda said the allegations were false.
“Representative Newman’s complete cooperation with the OCE provides the Committee with a full record on which it can quickly close the matter. The sole legal issue—involving a rarely enforced statute that does not even apply here—can be readily dismissed,” Svoboda wrote.
Reach out to Chelsey Cox on Twitter at @therealco.