Reps. Marie Newman (D-Ill.) and Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) are under investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) for alleged ethics violations, including misuse of funds and bribery.
‘Substantial Reason’ To Believe Newman Bribed Potential Challenger
An investigation by the OCE has determined that there is “substantial reason” to believe that Newman bribed a potential challenger ahead of a tough race, offering him a cushy six-figure position to stay out of the race.
According to the OCE report, Newman “promised federal employment to a primary opponent for the purpose of procuring political support” (pdf). If true, this would be a serious violation of federal law and a black mark against the Illinois Democrat.
The situation began in 2020, ahead of Newman’s battle to win the Democratic nomination for her district.
One potential challenger that could have beaten the Illinois marketing consultant for the nomination was Palestinian activist Iymen Chehade. As Newman is new on the political scene, the popular local activist posed a huge threat to her prospects in November. Recognizing this, Newman scheduled a meeting between herself and Chehade.
The details of that meeting remained out of public view for months, but the OCE’s investigation has brought to light the specifics of what was discussed and agreed to.
“The OCE found that Mr. Chehade’s policy expertise was not the only reason she contracted to employ him in the future,” the investigation said. “Instead, Rep. Newman likely was motivated to enter the agreement to avoid competing against Mr. Chehade in the next Democratic primary.”
Allegedly, Newman recognized the threat he posed, and in her covert meeting with Chehade she persuaded him not to compete in the primary race. In exchange, she offered him a cushy job on her staff that would pay $140,000 per year, would have effectively allowed him to make his own work schedule, and would have given him complete authority over the hiring and firing of subordinates.
In addition, Newman agreed to give her “commitment to endorse” Chehade after she left office.
Chehade agreed, and the two signed a contract stipulating that if Newman won, Chehade would get the position.
Tuesday’s report seems to contradict testimony Newman had made seven months earlier. In court, Newman admitted that she had offered Chehade the position but refuted the charge that this was a bribe to keep him from running. At the time, Newman claimed that she hadn’t known about Chehade’s intention to run.
However, after winning her election, Newman did not honor her side of the agreement, leading Chehade to bring a suit against the junior lawmaker.
Now that the OCE has found substantial evidence of ethics violations, the case will be moved to the House Ethics Committee for further investigation. In a Monday statement, the Ethics Committee said that it would “review the matter.”
OCE Finds Evidence Lamborn May Have Misused Federal Funds
The OCE has also released its findings in an investigation of Colorado Republican Doug Lamborn. The OCE investigation found that, as with Newman, there is “substantial reason” to believe that Lamborn may have misappropriated federal funds for personal matters.
Reportedly Lamborn’s aides, who are on the federal payroll, told investigators that they were often tasked with running errands for the congressman’s wife. Others reported having been tasked with helping Lamborn’s son to fill out a federal job application.
Lamborn’s wife, Jeanie, has a more active role in helping her husband politically than most congressional spouses. In both Colorado and Washington, Jeanie works as a salaried strategist and manager for the congressman.
Additionally, the report ruled that Lamborn may have given his chief of staff the go-ahead to compel other staff members to give gifts to the congressman and his family.
In contrast to Newman’s case, there is a significantly less substantial paper trail, and Lamborn has vehemently denied the charges.
In a defense posted to his Congress website, Lamborn refuted the charge.
“A thorough review of the facts will make it clear to everyone that no ethical violation has occurred, and [that the charges] should be dismissed,” Lamborn began.
Lamborn claimed that the allegations arose from one Brandon Pope, a former Capitol Hill staffer.
He continued, “You will find that anyone you talk to on Rep. Lamborn’s staff will absolutely and strongly disagree with [Pope’s] characterization of events.”
Rather, Lamborn argues that the investigation is the result of OCE bias against him and his wife. To make this case, he points to a section of the report that describes Pope’s testimony as “credible” even though Pope’s rendering of events is wildly divergent from all of Lamborn’s other staffers.
As with Newman, the case against Lamborn will now head for the House Ethics Committee for further review.