The Menendez saga: How it got to this point
Controversies that have been surrounding U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) for more than two years are at the center ofreports that he will allegedly face corruption charges.
It all goes back to an anonymous tipster who went by the alias “Pete Williams” — a reference to the last New Jersey U.S. Senator convicted of corruption, Harrison “Pete Williams.”
As Menendez was running for re-election to his second full term in 2012, the tipster emailed numerous reporters alleging that a wealthy Dominican-born eye doctor named Salomon Melgen had hosted him at his luxurious Dominican Republic villa for trysts with prostitutes — some underaged. The story was aired in a conservative media outlet, but was not substantiated. It gained widespread attention when the FBI raided Melgen’s Florida medical office in January 2013, but the Washington Post later reported an FBI inquiry into the matter had “come up dry.”
But it increased scrutiny on Menendez’s relationship with Melgen, who met Menendez at a Florida fundraiser when he was member of the House more than 20 years ago and who has since been a major donor to the senator.
Soon, Menendez acknowledged to The Star-Ledger that he had accepted two flights to the Dominican Republic on Melgen’s private jet without reimbursing them — paying back $58,500 to the doctor only after his relationship with Melgen drew attention, and after a New Jersey Republican state senator asked the U.S. Senate’s ethics committee to take a look into his travels. A year later, Menendez reimbursed Melgen for a third flight in 2011, calling it an “oversight.”
The New York Times reported that Menendez had urged officials to intervene on behalf of a port security company had urged Homeland Security officials not to donate port security equipment to the Dominican Republican, while a company connected to Melgen pushed for a port security contract there that was worth up to $500 million.
And The Washington Post reported that Menendez argued on Melgen’s behalf with U.S. Department of Health officials when the doctor was engaged in a billing dispute with Medicare.
Those two revelations, along with the flights are — according to multiple reports — at the center of the U.S. Justice Department’s case against Menendez.
On several occasions, Melgen made major donations to Menendez or affiliated Democratic committees that nearly coincided Menendez’s alleged actions to help him.
For instance, in 2009 — days after Menendez’s office made a call to officials at the agency in charge of Medicare and Medicaid programs in connection with Melgen’s billing dispute — Melgen cut a $30,000 check to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which Menendez then chaired.
And in June of 2012, the same month Menendez reportedly raised the dispute again with offiicals, Melgen wrote a $300,000 check to Majority PAC, which had spent more than half a million dollars to help Menendez’s reelection effort.
The Star-Ledger also reported that after New Jersey county Democratic leaders reached out to Menendez for fundraising help in 2012, Melgen sent $103,500 to Democratic committees in Passaic, Union, Essex and Camden Counties.
The federal investigation has run into resistance from Menendez aides, who have cited the U.S. Constitution’s “speech or debate” clause to avoid testifying in front of a federal grand jury, according to documents obtained by the New Jersey Law Journal.
March 6, 2015
Category: DR News |