Marie Newman, Another Bernie Democrat Caught in a Web of Corruption

Rep. Marie Newman. Photo: official government site, public domain.

If you are a Democrat with mainstream Democratic positions on issues, you didn't like Dan Lipinski much. So when Lipinski lost the Democratic primary for Illinois' third Congressional district last year, nobody threw a pity party for him.

But because of Lipinski's deep unpopularity in progressive and Democratic circles stemming from his stances against reproductive freedom and the Affordable Care Act, people were happy to see him lose the primary, and the person who won, Marie Newman, largely evaded scrutiny. Newman, who'd also ran and lost in the 2018 primary, was a recruit of the far-left Justice Democrats.

That should have been a flag.

Justice Democrats, a group created in the aftermath of Bernie Sanders's loss in the 2016 presidential primary, counts among its founders an admirer of a Nazi collaborator, a loudmouth podcaster who has openly claimed that the left should attack Democratic presidents mercilessly even if the party and its leadership are doing good, progressive things, and a misogynistic genocide denier whose own Congressional campaign imploded in 2020. The goal of Justice Dems, as articulated by its founder Kyle Kulinski, is not, unlike other left-liberal groups, to push the Democratic party to the left on public policy issues. It is to oppose the Democratic party from the left no matter what the party is doing.
In other words, JD is designed to be a destructive force, not a constructive organization. Among their most prominent congressional recruits are Ilhan Omar, who refused to recognize the Armenian Genocide in a vote in Congress, and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, who hired as her first Chief of Staff JD Founder Saikat Chakrabarti, the aforementioned Nazi collaborator fan.

Their enthusiastic backing - indeed, the zealous backing of any Sanders-aligned group - should be suspect.

Nevertheless, Newman, who ran both times on borderline antisemitic dog-whistle messaging, defeated Lipinski on March 17, 2020, and went on to easily win the blue district in November. When she won the primary, one of the most enthusiastic congratulatory messages came from Justice Democrats Executive Director Alexandra Rojas, who hailed Newman's victory as "a defeat for machine politics" in a not-so-subtle jab at then-candidate Joe Biden, who was badly beating Justice Democrats' presidential favorite, Bernie Sanders.

As I said before, because of Lipinski's unpopularity, Newman largely skated under the radar in terms of her own activities.

But where there is smoke, there's usually fire. Likewise, usually, when there's the close involvement of Justice Democrats, there's probably something corrupt happening. That corruption is now starting to come to light.

A lawsuit and an ethics complaint filed with the House now alleges that Newman bribed a potential primary opponent with promises of a plump job at her Congressional office in exchange for him not running in the 2020 primary against her. Although according to the lawsuit, filed by Iymen Chehade, the man she is alleged to have promised this bribe, Newman promptly reneged on her promise upon being elected, it is notable that the absence of a serious, progressive third challenger helped Newman win the primary.

Newman won the primary with well below 50% of the vote and by fewer than 3,000 ballots. Needless to say, she couldn't have afforded an additional serious candidate in the race.

Chehade, who is a Palestinian American and a professor of history at Columbia College Chicago, alleges that Newman kept him out of the race by promising him a job in her Congressional office with a minimum salary of $135,000 should she get elected to Congress. Interestingly, the fight between the pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian factions of the Democratic party featured prominently in the campaign, and Newman's antipathy towards Israel drove the pro-Israel vote and fundraising to Lipinski. That likely meant that Newman could not afford to fracture the pro-Palestinian vote in the primary by running against a prominent Palestinian American. She needed to get him out of the way.

That, Chehade's lawsuit alleges, is exactly what Newman's proposed bribe was intended to do. But as a member of Congress, Newman not only refused to hire Chehade, he was also quickly disenchanted by what he considered Newman's insufficient support for the Palestinian cause.

I have no great affinity for Chehade. In all fairness, it does appear that it is Newman's perceived failure to sufficiently back anti-Israel and antisemitic causes (Chehade says he told Newman's office that recognizing Israel as a Jewish state is tantamount to calling America white country, a comment that is by definition antisemitic) that sparked the lawsuit from Chehade, and the employment contract appears only to be a pretext and a convenient tool for him to lash out at her.

But here's the kicker: the lawsuit and the ethics complaint aren't entirely a he-said-she-said quarrel. Newman's office acknowledges that she in fact signed a promissory contract with Chehade but says that it is null and void because she cannot be held accountable in her official capacity as a member of Congress for a contract she signed in her personal capacity as a candidate to clear the field.
Newman’s lawyer, Douglas Letter from the House’s Office of General Counsel, acknowledged the contract was signed by Newman in a filing earlier this month.

“Although the agreement was signed by Congresswoman Newman in her personal capacity (because she had no official capacity in which to act before her election), it purports to bind her in her official capacity to hire Mr. Chehade in her Congressional office,” Letter said in the filing.
The real problem here is that Newman openly engaged in bribery during her campaign and is now openly thumbing her nose at a contract she signed. Not only is it grossly unethical to bribe a potential political opponent to stay out of a race, but it is also illegal. It reeks of deception, corruption, and a callous disregard for the democratic process. 

It also reeks of the destructive, corrosive force in American politics and the Democratic Party that is the Justice Democrats.

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