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Ethics Watchdog Calls for FEC Investigation into Rep. Marie Newman

Evidence shows Rep. Marie Newman and her campaign committee violated federal campaign finance law by misusing campaign funds

The non-partisan ethics watchdog, the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), requested the Federal Election Commission immediately investigate Rep. Marie Newman (IL) for illegally misusing campaign funds. This complaint stems from evidence revealed by the Office of Congressional Ethics investigation into Newman for promising a federal job in order to dissuade a potential primary opponent from running against her.

Background & Case Summary:

Under federal law, it is illegal for a candidate to promise employment to any person with the purpose of procuring support for his or her candidacy. Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 599:

"Whoever, being a candidate directly or indirectly promises or pledges the appointment, or use of his influence or support for the appointment of any person to any public or private position or employment, for the purpose of procuring support in his candidacy shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both; and if the violation was willful, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both."

Contrary to this law, Rep. Marie Newman promised a government job to her potential political opponent, Iymen Chehade, so he would not run against her in the primary. Nearly two years before the 2020 election, Newman entered into a written contract affirming their agreement for her Congressional office to hire him should she be elected to Congress. Newman did in fact win the seat, but did not employ Chehade and he sued her for breach of contract. Following this, FACT filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), which then began investigating Rep. Newman. After being notified she was under investigation, Newman settled the civil lawsuit brought by Chehade and began paying him a "salary" with her federal campaign funds. Notably, the settlement included a non-disclosure agreement which prevented Chehade from testifying in the OCE investigation.

The OCE's investigation revealed additional evidence, including testimony from Newman herself, her campaign manager, and email exchanges. Ultimately, the OCE found: "In summary, the evidence collected by the OCE supports a finding that Rep. Newman had knowledge of Mr. Chehade’s intent to run for the 2020 congressional seat when she knowingly entered into an employment contract with Mr. Chehade promising him future employment in her official office if he did not submit or announce his candidacy for the same congressional seat." On a vote of six to zero the OCE referred the case to the House Ethics Committee for further action.

FEC Complaint:

FACT's complaint with the FEC requests an investigation into Newman based on the OCE revealing that the payments to Chehade were related to the settlement, calling into question whether the campaign payments were actually a salary for fair-market services.

"The new information in Rep. Newman's case exposes three key elements that call for further investigation. These elements include: (1) Newman settling the civil lawsuit shortly after she was notified of the OCE investigation; (2) Chehade being unable to testify in the pending case due to the non-disclosure agreement included in the settlement; and (3) Newman's campaign making 'salary' payments to Chehade just two days after the lawsuit was settled, which testimony shows were related to the settlement. Clearly, a Member can not use campaign funds to cover-up criminal conduct or ethics violation and, given the facts of this case and the volume of hard evidence, it is necessary for the FEC to investigate whether these payments are a legal use of campaign funds," said Kendra Arnold, Executive Director of FACT.

A full copy of the Newman complaint can be found here.

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