Sen. Robert Menendez (D., N.J.) spoke on Sunday at “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants,” a Black History Month Celebration in Trenton, N.J. He addressed the crowd with quotes from Martin Luther King Jr. and the Bible, as he disputed claims he has acted improperly.
The Star-Ledger reports:
“Dr. King said that ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,’” Menendez said, prompting calls of “alright” from some in the audience at the Shiloh Baptist Church in Trenton. “In the end, I believe that justice will overcome the forces of darkness. Scriptures — scriptures tell us that he who ‘puts his hand to the plough and looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.’
“I have my hand on the plough,” he said, “and I am going to continue to look forward and to work to make that plough lead us to the fulfillment of educational, economic, and health care opportunity in this country.” …
But he did not hide from his troubles. Rather, the New Jersey Democrat addressed the accusations of impropriety as he lashed out:
“Now we face anonymous, faceless, nameless individuals from right-wing sources seeking to destroy a lifetime of work. And their scares are false. I have worked too hard and too long in the vineyards to allow, at my hands, for the harvest to be soured.”
Here’s a roundup of the top “right-wing sources” to point out Menendez’s alleged wrongdoing.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) was the first organization to bring allegations that Menendez engaged in “illicit sexual act with underage prostitutes in the Dominican Republic” to the attention of the FBI.
According to CREW’s webpage, they are not decidedly left or right but an organization “dedicated to promoting ethics and accountability in government and public life by targeting government officials who sacrifice the common good to special interests.”
They have been criticized at times for a left-leaning bias. Roll Call reported in 2008 that the organization paid extra attention to Republicans:
Several news stories — in this newspaper as well as in the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and others — have pointed out that much of CREW’s funding comes from liberal groups and big donors to Democratic candidates and causes. And all but a handful of its complaints against Members of Congress have targeted Republicans.
CREW disputed these charges and maintained that they are nonpartisan.
2. The FBI:
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has been investigating the senator along with his long-time friend and controversial donor, Dr. Salomon Melgen.
The Washington Post reported on the investigation:
One person said agents have asked about whether a Florida eye doctor — a close friend and major campaign donor to Menendez — provided the senator with prostitutes on vacations there. Another person said investigators are looking into allegations involving underage prostitutes and sex parties.
The FBI agents are also examining the role Menendez played in advocating for a port security contract in the Dominican Republic that would benefit Melgen, two people familiar with the case said.
3. The New York Times:
The New York Times uncovered an instance where the senator intervened in a Dominican port security deal that would have benefited a private company run by Melgen.
The intervention with the Department of Homeland Security last month came even though Mr. Menendez has publicly chastised the Obama administration for not doing more to combat the surging drug traffic moving through Dominican ports.
And it came shortly after the senator’s friend, Dr. Salomon E. Melgen, arranged to meet with a senior State Department official, accompanied by a former aide to Mr. Menendez, in a related push to protect the port security contract, which is worth as much as $500 million over 20 years.
The newspaper later reported that the deal would also benefit a former Menendez staffer, Pedro Pablo Permuy, a top executive at Melgen’s security company.
The New York Times subsequently called on the senator to “at least temporarily” relinquish his position as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in an editorial.
4. The Washington Post:
The Washington Post reported in early February that Menendez contacted “top health-care officials” as Melgen was being audited for overbilling the government $8.9 million.
Menendez (D., N.J.) initially contacted federal officials in 2009 about the government’s audit of Salomon Melgen, complaining to the director overseeing Medicare payments that it was unfair to penalize the doctor because the billing rules were ambiguous, the aides said.
Last year, in a meeting with the acting administrator of the agency in charge of Medicare and Medicaid, Menendez again questioned whether federal auditors had been fair in their assessment of Melgen’s billing for eye injections to treat macular degeneration, the senator’s aides said.
5. The Associated Press:
The AP noted Melgen contributed $700,000 to a Super PAC that spent over half a million dollars on behalf of Menendez’s reelection efforts.
In 2012, Melgen’s practice gave $700,000 to Majority PAC, a super political action committee set up to fund Democratic candidates for Senate. Aided by Melgen’s donation, the Super PAC became the largest outside political committee contributing to Menendez’s re-election, spending more than $582,000 on the senator’s behalf, according to an analysis of federal election records.
6. The New Jersey Star-Ledger:
The Star-Ledger reported that the senator appeared to have intervened on behalf of another donor.
The road contract, which has attracted scant attention in the United States, involved a firm called Codacsa, a Spanish consortium with U.S. interests, various government records show. At a hearing on July 31, 2012, of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere — then chaired by Menendez — the New Jersey senator called on the U.S. government to pressure the Dominican government on behalf of Codacsa in connection with a $42.5 million international arbitration award, according to an official transcript of the proceeding.
According to the article, the case affected a New Jersey-based company called Clearly Tropical. Clearly Tropical was the sole American investor in Codacsa, and the company is run by a contributor to Menendez.
The paper also reported that Melgen might have made financial contributions to local Democratic committees, at the request of Menendez.
7. The Miami Herald:
The agents raided Melgen’s West Palm Beach offices last week. He’s also under FBI examination for his ties to Sen. Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, who tried to help Melgen with another Medicare dispute. …
A separate FBI examination revolves around the doctor’s relationship with Menendez and the trips they took on his private plane to Melgen’s villa at a resort in the Dominican Republic.
8. Then there’s the Senate Ethics Committee Inquiry:
The Washington Post reports:
The Senate Ethics Committee is reviewing allegations that Sen. Robert Menendez accepted inappropriate gifts from a Florida doctor who has flown the New Jersey Democrat to his estate in the Dominican Republic, a senior member of the panel confirmed Thursday.
9. Even college students have called on the senator to step down.
The Harvard Crimson writes:
The Foreign Relations Committee is one of the Senate’s most important bodies. Menendez’s troubles cannot distract from its critical work. Neither should it be led by a man who might monetize the position to detrimental effect. For the duration of the ethics inquiry, Menendez should step down from his post. It wouldn’t be proper to replace John Kerry with a Senator who, if the allegations are true, appears to be only slightly less corrupt than “Boardwalk Empire’s” Walter Edge.